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Records other Than Vital Records
Column published: 28 January 2010
By: Shirley Gage Hodges   Biography & Archived Articles

Often times we are looking for records about our ancestors long before Vital Records were kept. We have to think about other types of records that might exist in the geographical areas where our ancestors lived. There are a great many other records that contain a wealth of information about our ancestors.

Our friend and colleague, Ryan Taylor, often told the story of his families search for one of his uncles. The only way that they were ever able to prove a location of residence for his uncle was because they had found his name mentioned in a probate file where he had bought a pig from the estate. According to Ryan, his family was always grateful for that pig. He said his family was a real smorgasbord. He had many delightful stories about his family and food items. On his grandfather's side of the family he had HOGG and BACON and on his grandmother's side he had BUNN.

It is important when we go to any type of research facility that we ask what kind of records they might have that would pre-date vital records.

In Michigan our vital records start in 1867. You can imagine that when I went to the Eaton County Genealogical Society library I was delighted to find that they had wolf scalp bounty records that went back to 1839. I was able to find a record where Jay Hawkins had appeared before a Justice of the Peace. The record even gives the property description where the wolves were killed.

When we write our family histories we want to make sure that they include all of the details about our family. That includes their biographies; it fills the gaps between their birth and death. We need to find the stories and things that give us a peek into the personalities of our ancestors. Each of those who have gone before us have paved the way for us to be who we are today. Our ancestors truly are a part of us and who we are. Make sure that you are utilizing all of the records that can help us accomplish this task.

Until next time :)

Shirley Hodges, biography & genealogy lectures; email:

Editor's Note: Shirley Hodges is the author of the popular Guide to United States Census, 1790-1930

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