Have you reached a dead end on one branch of your family tree–you can’t find the parents’ names? Check out these sources for finding ancestors’ parents.
Recently Genealogy Gems podcast listener Trisha wrote in with this question about finding marriage license applications online. She hoped the original application would name the groom’s parents. Unfortunately, her search for the applications came up dry. So, she asked, “Are there other documents that would have his parents names listed on them?”
Here’s a brainstorm for Trisha and everyone else who is looking for an ancestor’s parents’ names (and aren’t we all!).
6 Record Sources that May Name Your Ancestors’ Parents
1. Civil birth records. I’ll list this first, because civil birth records may exist, depending on the time period and place. But in the U.S. they are sparse before the Civil War and unreliably available until the early 1900s. So before a point, birth records–which will almost always name at least one parent–are not a strong answer. Learn more about civil birth records in my free Family History Made Easy podcast episode #25.
2. Marriage license applications. Trisha’s idea to look for a marriage license application was a good one. They often do mention parents’ names. But they don’t always exist: either a separate application form was never filled out, or it didn’t survive. Learn more about the different kinds of marriage documents that may exist in the Family History Made Easy podcast episode #24.
3. Obituaries. Obituaries or death notices are more frequently found for ancestors who died in the late 1800s or later. Thanks to digitized newspapers, it’s getting SO much easier to find ancestors’ obituaries in old newspapers. My book How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers is packed with practical tips and inspiring stories for discovering your family’s names in newsprint. Millions of newly-indexed obituaries are on FamilySearch (viewable at GenealogyBank). Get inspired with this list of 12 Things You Can Learn from Obituaries!
4. Social Security Applications (U.S.). In the U.S., millions of residents have applied for Social Security numbers and benefits since the 1930s. These applications request parents’ names. There are still some privacy restrictions on these, and the applications themselves are pricey to order (they start at $27). But recently a fabulous new database came online at Ancestry that includes millions of parents’ names not previously included in public databases. I blogged about it here. Learn more about Social Security applications (and see what one looked like) in the show notes for my free Family History Made Easy podcast episode #4.
5. Baptismal records. Many churches recorded children’s births and/or the baptisms of infants and young children. These generally name one or both parents. Millions of church records have come online in recent years. Learn more about birth and baptism records created by churches in the Family History Made Easy Podcast Episode #26. Click these links to read more about baptismal records in Quebec and Ireland.
6. Siblings’ records. If you know the name of an ancestor’s sibling, look for that sibling’s records. I know of one case in which an ancestor appeared on a census living next door to a possible parent. Younger children were still in the household. A search for one of those younger children’s delayed birth record revealed that the neighbor WAS his older sister: she signed an affidavit stating the facts of the child’s birth.
Thanks for sharing this list with anyone you know who wants to find their ancestors’ parents!
More Genealogy Gems on Finding Your Ancestors in Old Records
Missing Birth Record? Here’s What You Can Do to Track it Down
Try These 2 Powerful Tools for Finding Genealogy Records Online
Finding Ancestors in Courthouse Records: Research Tips
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About the Author: Lisa Louise Cooke is the producer and host of the Genealogy Gems Podcast, an online genealogy audio show and app. She is the author of the books The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, Mobile Genealogy, How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers, and the Google Earth for Genealogy video series, and an international keynote speaker.
This article was originally posted on November 3, 2015 and updated on April 19, 2019.
Big records updates at the Genealogy Giant website Ancestry.com! Brand new collections of birth, marriage, death, and census records for Canada were added this week, along with a Remembrance Book for the 100th anniversary of the Halifax explosion. Additionally, new vital records are now available for Germany.
Canada – Birth, Marriage, Death, and Census Records
This year, December 6th marks the 100th anniversary of the Halifax explosion, which was a devastating maritime disaster in Nova Scotia, Canada. Ancestry has recently made available the ‘Halifax Explosion Remembrance Book,’ an online searchable database with detailed information for 1,946 casualties – more than 300 of whom are recently-confirmed and identified victims.
Ancestry also had a huge update of vital and census records this week for Canada:
AncestryDNA for Canada is on sale for just $99! Reg. $129 CAD. Sale ends 12/24/17. Excludes tax & shipping.
Alberta. Explore the new Births Index, 1870-1896, the Deaths Index, 1870-1966, and the Marriages Index, 1898-1942. Note that the marriage index is slightly irregular, in that each image only includes either the bride or the groom and their marriage year.
Newfoundland. Search baptisms and marriage records in the new collection of Church Records, 1793-1899. You’ll also find records from various churches in Newfoundland in the Births, Marriages, and Deaths, 1757-1901 collection, and the Births, Marriages, and Deaths, 1850-1949 collection. Also available are the 1921 Census, the 1935 Census, and the 1945 Census. Those databases originate from the Newfoundland Department of Tourism, Culture, and Recreation.
New Brunswick. New vital records collections start with Births and Late Registrations, 1810-1906. Then you’ll find Marriages, 1789-1950, which include registers, certificates, delayed registrations, and returns. And Deaths, 1888-1938 is also now online.
Prince Edward Island. Baptisms, Marriages, Burials, 1780-1983 is comprised of church records for Prince Edward Island. The Marriage Registers, 1832-1888 collection was created from newspapers, church records, and other sources that may or may not be provided. The Death Card Index, 1810-1913 contains pictures of the index cards from the Prince Edward Island Provincial Archives.
Nova Scotia. Lastly, Antigonish Catholic Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, 1823-1905 are now available for Nova Scotia. The earlier registers are written in paragraph format, while later registers are typically pre-printed forms with information filled in by hand.
German Vital Records
Lots of new vital records collections for Germany recently became available, starting with Waldshut-Tiengen, Births, Marriages, and Deaths, 1870-1945. This collection of civil registers includes records from 9 additional communities which are today boroughs of Waldhut-Tiengen.
Next are Erfurt, Germany, Births, 1874-1901 and Marriages, 1874-1900. Additional events from the life of the child or the couple were sometimes recorded later on in the margins, but have not been indexed.
You’ll also find Zschopau, Germany, Births, 1876-1914, Marriages, 1876-1920, and Deaths, 1876-1958 now at Ancestry. It may be helpful to note that during the time period of these collections until 1918, Zschopau belonged to the Kingdom of Saxony.
Finally, Traunstein, Germany, Births, 1876-1905, Marriages, 1876-1934, and Deaths, 1876-1978 are also online, where you’ll find names, dates of birth, dates of deaths, witnesses, informants, parents, signatures, and other information.
Get the most out of Ancestry!
Getting started on Ancestry.com can be a little daunting. As one of the world’s top genealogy websites, it’s packed with information about millions of people–perhaps including your ancestors. These step-by-step instructions will help you start building your family tree and learning more about your heritage. Click to read our recent article Getting Started on Ancestry.com.
Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!
We are bringing you Irish historical photographs from Dublin this month in celebration of Irish heritage. Search these amazing photos of your ancestral homeland. Also this week, directories from Scotland, church records of the United Kingdom, and censuses for Canada and New York State.
Ireland – Dublin – Irish Historical Photographs
The Dublin [Ireland] City Council has launched an online archive of over 43,000 Irish historical photographs and documents to their website. These amazing photographs can be searched by archive, date, or location for free. They show images of events like the Eucharistic Congress
and the North Strand Bombing
. There are also images of football games, bus strikes, and old Dublin streets.
These Irish historical photographs includes pictures of old documents and objects, too, with the oldest document dated to 1757!
Take a look at the entire archive, here.
More on Beginning Irish Genealogy
You’ll love these two quick-guides by Donna Moughty on Irish genealogy. Guide #1 titled Preparing for Success in Irish Records Research will help you determine a birth place, differentiate between persons with the same name, and walk you through identifying helpful US records.
Guide #2 titled Irish Civil Registration and Church Records, will guide you through locating Protestant church records, civil registrations, and more. It will also walk you step-by-step through using the new online Civil Registration records.
And now, purchase these quick-guides as a bundle
Scotland – Post Office Directories
Scotland Post Office Directories contains over 382,000 records and allows you to explore thousands of pages of directories to learn more about the life and work of your Scottish ancestors. This Findmypast collection focuses on a particular town or district although a number of national postal directories are also included. The majority comprise a description of the place along with lists of people by occupation. For example, you will find lists of magistrates, councilors, sheriffs, police officers, and merchants.
The records are do not contain transcripts, but do include a digital image. The detail you will find on each page will depend on the type and date of the directory.
In conjunction with these post office directories, there are some that are browse-image only. They have not been indexed at this time. These 598 volumes of the Scotland Post Office Directories Image Browse are an excellent source for family history and those who need to trace their ancestors on a yearly basis.
Canada – 1842 Census
The Lower Canada Census 1842 at Findmypast contains over 46,000 records. The Province of Lower Canada was a British colony on the lower Saint Lawrence River and the shores of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence between 1791 and 1841. It covered the southern portion of the modern-day Province of Quebec and the Labrador region of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Each search result will include an image of the original document and a transcript. The original returns were printed in French and English and transcripts may include occupation, language, residence, and the number of inhabitants at their dwelling. Images can provide detailed information about the local area such as number of inhabited and uninhabited buildings, the number of barley mills, tanneries, distilleries, the price of wheat since last harvest, and the price of agricultural labor per day.
United Kingdom – London – Russian Orthodox Church Records
Findmypast has added records to their collection titled Britain, Russian Orthodox Church in London. Over 13,000 records taken from volumes of birth, marriage, and death records from the Russian Orthodox Church in London in exist is this collection. The records further include correspondences, congregational records, and church documents. The majority of the volumes are written in Russian although a limited number of English-language records are available.
The Russian Orthodox Church records are available as a browse set only at this time. You will need to search the records by the document description such as Births, marriages, deaths, converts, and passports, 1888-1919 or Donations to St Petersburg Guardianship for Poor Clergymen, 1863. Then, search within the digitized volume to find your ancestor.
You will find numerous correspondences with other church leaders in London, America, Russia, and Japan, as well as documents related to religious doctrine. The facts found in each volume will depend on the type of record you are viewing. Birth, marriage, and death records will typically include the individual’s name, event date, and place, while birth and marriage records may also include the names of the individual’s parents.
United Kingdom – War Records
New records have been added to the Findmypast collection of Anglo-Boer War Records 1899-1902. This unique database of more than 470 sources may reveal the unit your ancestor served with and any medals, honors, or awards they won. The register also contains a completely revised casualty list of 59,000 casualty records.
Each record contains a transcript and may include the following information:
- Service number and rank,
- Unit & regiment
- Medals, honors or awards received
- Memorials relating to death if applicable
United Kingdom – England – Births and Christenings
By Anton Laupheimer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Though this collection from FamilySearch has been available for awhile, they have recently added more records. The England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975
now totals over 68 million records. There are some important tips and known problems with this database. Before searching, be sure to read the details at the FamilySearch Wiki, here
. As an example: In birth or christening records, if a surname is not listed for the child, the indexer often assigns the father’s surname to the child. This surname may not be correct. So if you are looking for a birth or christening, search by the given name of the child, adding parents’ names and as much locality information as is permitted.
United States – New York – State Census
FamilySearch has added to the New York State Census of 1865 this week. State censuses are particularly helpful to researchers because they fill in the gap between federal censuses. Unfortunately, the following counties are missing:
- New York
- St Lawrence
The population schedule includes the name, age, birthplace, and occupation of each household member as most censuses do.
However, this census also includes two military schedules with information of officers and enlisted men currently in the military and men who had served in the military. This census contains information on when and where the individual first entered the military, rank, how long they were in the service, their present health, as well as several other items.
Additionally, the census contains tables on marriages and deaths occurring during the year ending June 1, 1865. These tables contain typical marriage and death information, but can be a helpful resource for those who have been unable to find these records in traditional locations.
Lastly, a second table entitled deaths of officers and enlisted men contains deaths of individuals which had occurred while in the military or naval service of the United States, or from wounds or disease acquired in said service since April, 1861, reported by the families to which the deceased belonged when at home. It includes the name of the deceased, age at death, if married or single, if a citizen, several items relating to military information, date of death, place of death, manner of death, survivors of the deceased, place of burial and any remarks.
Have you ever had a case of a missing birth record, in a time and place where you know there should be one? It’s so frustrating! Recently Michelle shared her missing birth record dilemma on our Genealogy Gems Facebook page:
“I am having a problem with my grandfather’s birth certificate. Everyone in the family says he was born in Tupelo, MS yet when I requested his BC they did not locate it. I am unsure where to even start looking. I have not been able to locate them on the 1930 Census either. He was born in 1921. Any suggestions on how I can narrow my search for his birth certificate would be helpful.”
Without knowing the specifics of her family, and without knowing the Tupelo area or Mississippi records well, it’s hard to give the perfect answer. But here are some ideas worth considering:
- In that time and place, many births were still home births with midwives in attendance. By this date, midwives were required to record the birth record but it’s possible this one was missed or filed later (so it might not show up in order, if the record is chronological by date of filing).
- If your grandfather had any known African-American ancestry at all, his birth might be recorded in a separate place (“colored register”).
- It’s a long shot for someone born this late in time, but ask whether his birth appears in the delayed birth records collection. (I’m not sure, for this locale, whether that was kept at the county level or not.) Click here to hear a free Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast episode on birth records and delayed birth records.
- I would also look to neighboring counties and towns. It’s possible he was born outside of Tupelo and the family just remembers that as being the nearest city.
- If you can’t find the family in the 1930 census, that’s a red flag that perhaps they didn’t live there at the time. (Browse the census pages to be sure, instead of just relying on the index to search the name.)
- Finally, I would definitely call the local genealogical society and ask their volunteers this question! They may know of additional records that exist, or a reason he might not be there.
Learn more about family history sleuthing strategies like these in the free Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast, which takes listeners step-by-step into the world of genealogy research. It’s great for a “true” beginner and for anyone who could use a refresher on any or all of the topics we cover.
Listen to the Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast by Lisa Louise Cooke. It’s a great series for learning the research ropes and well as refreshing your skills.
Family History: Genealogy Made Easy
with Lisa Louise Cooke
Republished April 8, 2014
Download the Show Notes for this Episode
Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008-09. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.
Episode 26: Using Church Birth Records in Family History
In our last episode we covered civil birth records. As promised, in this week’s episode we finish up this two part series on birth records by talking about church birth records. Just like with civil birth records, there are a variety of records to track down. So to help us in the hunt I’m bringing back professional genealogist Arlene Eakle, PhD. She helps us see the challenges we face and the success we can have locating church buy herpes medication online records about our ancestors’ births.
Read the show notes below for exciting updates to the original conversation.
The first place Arlene looks for church birth records is the International Genealogical Index (IGI). This database can be found at FamilySearch.org. As you can see below, you’ll see a search tool for just the IGI. Community-indexed IGI is what you want to search: the collection of vital and church records from the early 1500s to 1885.
Unfortunately, the indexed entries are not sourced in this database. Chase down the original source of the record with this FamilySearch tutorial.
Here are 3 tips for searching for church records
1. Search for a namesake of the person you are looking for, particularly if they have a fairly unusual or unique name. Often times that person will be related and give you a clue as to where to find the other person.
2. Always attempt to get a copy of the original source for information found in transcribed records or online.
3. When you want to locate a church in the U.S. and determine how to access their records, Arlene suggests using Rootsweb and USGenWeb. US Gen Web is organized by state, then county.
And here are links to 3 more places to look for your family history:
1. Google Books
2. The Social Security Death Index, or SSDI, which we talk about in Episode 3 of this podcast.
3. Volunteer lookups: Arlene mentions Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness. That site went offline, then was revived, but isn’t exactly the same. Find it listed along with other volunteer lookup sites at Cyndi’s List.