Research Your Ancestry By Time Period

Many different types of records have been created that name your ancestors. This section gives you an outline and description of the most common sources used for genealogy based on the years your ancestor lived.

1931 to Present

From the Great Depression to today, there are many sources for documenting your family. Records from this time period include birth and death certificates, Social Security documents, and World War II records.

1900 to 1930

The primary resource for the first 30 years of the 20th Century is the United States census, taken every ten years. Also, states that did not already have vital records began requiring birth and death certificates during this period.

1877 to 1899

During the period following Reconstruction, useful records include the 1880 Census and tax digests. Because of the loss of most of the 1890 Census, the period between 1880 and 1900 can be a blank time for U.S. researchers of all races.

1865 to 1876

Sources during Reconstruction can be divided into two groups: records of the general population and records specifically for freedmen. Former slaves can be found in the general population records such as the 1870 Census, marriage records, and (in the South) the 1867 Voter Registration. Institutions like the Freedman's Bank and the Freedman's Bureau created records specifically oriented toward freedmen.

To 1865

Until the end of the Civil War, enslaved people were considered to be property. To local records of people in slavery, it is necessary to look at the records of slaveowners, including wills, estate inventories, and deeds. Newspapers also print notices of slave sales or accounts of runaway slaves.