Monday, June 28, 2010

More Sources of Background Research: Yearbooks, Gravestones, Heirlooms, and more

Today's post on Jen's Family History Research Tips Blog  is entitled, Background Information Research.  Jen describes some great sources for background research including newspaper articles, search engines, and books.  Jen asks for other sources used for background research, so here's the sources I've used (I've excluded the items Jen describes so well in her blog)

Other sources I've used for background research include:

1) Yearbooks (found at the library in the city/county of your ancestor, online, or even on ebay)  I found a great picture of Brenden's father in his yearbook online.  It also had his senior year quote, which provided some further insight

2) City/County History Centers--The Iroquois County Historical Society has a biography on two of my Ruebensam ancestors on its website.  I haven't seen the biographies in print anywhere else

3) Family photographs--not just looking at the people, but their outfits, cars, houses, etc.  Tells you a little bit for about the family than just what they looked like

4) Gravestones---I found out that Brenden's great grandfather was a freemason by the symbol on his gravestone.  Brenden's great grandmother has the Order of the Eastern Star symbol on her grave.  You may find other fraternal organization symbols or other symbols that may tell you about your family's background.  Not just symbols, but military participation as well.  Through a gravestone, I found out my ancestor fought in World War II.  I hadn't found a record on ancestry for him, but found it on his gravestone

5) Religious Organizations/Churches---Brenden's family is a lot more religious than mine is, and I've been able to find old church newsletters that have pictures of the family (more recent newsletters) and stories about how the family participated in a community event. 

6) Family Scrapbooks---I haven't been luck enough to find such a resource, but as the family historian for my family, I've started the scrapbook and hope it will passed on through many generations.

7) Obituaries--I've found out so much about my ancestors just by reading their obituaries 

8) Family Heirlooms--What has been passed down from generation to generation?  Obviously the item was important enough to be passed on.  What relevance did the item have to the family and their way of life?  My favorite heirloom is my grandmother's gold chain that has her first initial "M".  As I was the only person in the family with a first name starting with "M", I received the chain after she passed away.  We also have costume jewelry from my great grandmother, as she was a seamstress for some of the silent films

I'm sure there are more items I'm forgetting at this moment, but these are my top 8.  Do you have any additions to the list?


  1. Great list. Thanks for sharing.

    Bill ;-)
    Author of "Back to the Homeplace"
    and "13 Ways to Tell Your Ancestor Stories"