Earlier this week (September 4, 2007), WorldVitalRecords.com launched 100 state and local histories from the Quintin Publications Collection. Some of the states in this launch include Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina. These state and local histories will be free to access until September 14, 2007.
As part of the launch, Sherry Lindsay, World Vital Records, Inc., wrote the following article regarding the value of state and local histories:
State and local histories can be a great resource for genealogical research. Although they are secondary sources, they often can point you in the right direction to find the resources you need.
Most state and local histories you will find were published during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Often these histories enumerate the general history of the area, including the development and growth of the region and industrial information.
Histories sometimes also include the role of certain regions during large conflicts, like the Civil War. Writers frequently included information about how a town was affected by conflicts (local conflicts as well as national or world-wide conflicts). State and local histories often include a variety of maps including topographical as well as plat maps. Many histories also include lists of political leaders, military personnel, and appointed officials.
This type of information is very valuable for family history. Knowing what an ancestor’s hometown was like can add some character to that ancestor. It helps to know what problems the ancestor faced in his community and what life was typically like in that community. Also, knowing the general migration patterns and trends that are associated with the area can help in finding an ancestor with unknown origins.
Many genealogists believe the true value of these histories is found in the biographical sketches that are almost always included. Usually biographical sketches include the vital information about the subject as well as professional and lifestyle information including political party, community or church involvement. These sketches may list valuable information about the subject’s parents, siblings, spouse and children. Most of these sketches were written by a family member or friend who paid to have the sketch included. For that reason, the sketches almost always paint the subject in a positive light.
Because a biographical sketch can rarely be viewed as a primary source, it is important to verify the information. Usually the sketches do not list the source of the information. Even a family member can sometimes become confused about dates, places, and names. Fortunately, though, biographical sketches are fantastic sources for finding clues about where to search next. Finding a sketch about an ancestor for whom you have very little information can lead to the valuable original sources that have been overlooked in the past.