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Hometown Advantage
5/1/2008
Don't limit your family history search to people: Get a research edge by following these seven steps for studying ancestral places.
 
Sometimes genealogists give geography short shrift — we get so focused on finding names to add to our family trees, we forget ancestral places may hold clues, too. Focusing not just on who your ancestors were, but also where they went, can give you a research advantage: You'll learn what records they might have generated and where those records are today. You'll find Web sites with links to indexes, cemetery lists, maps and more. Heck, you might even get a look at the places your relatives lived and worked. So get ahead by using these seven steps to home in on your ancestors' hometowns.

1. Check place-based source guides.

Several handy reference books put key facts at your fingertips. The Family Tree Resource Book for Genealogists (Family Tree Books), a guide to county and town sources, tells you when each US county began keeping various records and which offices have jurisdiction over those records now. So if Great-grandma Lillian was married in Claiborne County, Tenn., just flip to the county's listing to learn the clerk of courts has marriage documents from 1838 to 1995. The Handybook for Genealogists, 1lth edition (Everton Publishers), and Red Book: American State, County and Town Sources, 3rd edition, edited by Alice Eichholz (Ancestry) provide similar information. Don't overlook state and regional guides, such as the Genealogist's Handbook for New England Research (Picton Press).

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