•    •  Tracking Down Previous Research
Getting Started | Tracking Down Previous Research
9.1 Tracking Down Previous Research

While few people are able to connect themselves to families whose entire genealogy has been examined and published, it is highly worthwhile searching down any past research on your family. Begin with your family to see if there is a relative who has already done some research on the family history.

Keep in mind, as you gather information, that earlier study is regarded as a secondary source, not proof in and of itself. Previous research can also be found in the sources listed below:

Published Family Histories & Genealogies

You might be able to find published books on your family in a library near where they lived, or in an Internet database. Consult the catalogue of holdings from local genealogical or historical societies. Check to see if one of your known ancestors is listed in a book but don’t just assume it’s your ancestor because it’s about a family with the same surname as yours. Before entering data from a published family history or genealogy into your charts or database, make an effort to independently verify it using primary source materials.

Local Histories

Local histories can be great sources of information if any of your ancestors were among the early settlers of a specific village, town, county, parish, or state. A good local history might provide insight into your ancestors’ daily lives. Many also provide genealogies for many of the community’s early families. Local libraries, genealogical and historical societies are the greatest sources to find published local history.


Some researchers are fortunate to have relatives whose biographies have been written. These could be a full biographical work or a page or two in a book of compiled biographies. When looking for biographies, the same resources that were suggested for local histories can be used.

Genealogical & Historical Periodicals

Genealogical and historical publications and journals are also excellent locations to look for past research on your ancestors. Many of them publish documents, genealogies, family trees, and other materials for people who lived in the area they cover.