The first question is “Where will I get these records?” Perhaps in your previous work with deciding what you want to learn you noted a location already. But perhaps you don’t know where the record is located. For Upper South research, this website lists the numerous repositories available to aid you in your search. Our aim is to help you as much as possible find the records you are looking for by knowing where to look.
The second question is “How do I search these records?”. There are numerous ways to do this depending on your budget and available time. Certainly if you have time and money to do so, it’s great to visit the repository in person and do the searching yourself. Nothing beats putting your own two eyes on an original records. Another way is to reach out to the repository by phone, email or snail mail. Some repositories will do the search for you for a fee. If you’re luck they will do it free of charge.
Also consider all the ways that you can get to that original document. Thankfully the Internet is making it a lot easier to look at documents online. The two issues you might find with that is the quality of the scan and the quality of any transcriptions. Do your own transcription as much as possible.
Some other issues to consider: when looking through a record look around at other surnames. They might be related. If you’re not sure, write down the information anyway. Later on you may discover this to be true. Remember that dates aren’t always exact, so sometimes looking through a range of dates will yield better results. The same applies to locations. You will learn that boundaries change over time. Looking over a broader geographic location sometimes yields better results as well.
Some skills you will want to pick up and learn in this area:
- Search techniques
- Knowledge of available indexes
- Reading a foreign language
- Reading and transcribing handwriting