United States History

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Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States

Histories[edit | edit source]

Effective family research requires some understanding of the historical events that may have affected your family and the records about them. Learning about wars, governments, laws, migrations, and religious trends may help you understand political boundaries, family movements, and settlement patterns. These events may have led to the creation of records that your family was listed in, such as land and military documents.

What Histories Contain[edit | edit source]

Histories, like county or town histories, are great sources of genealogical information. Many contain biographical information about individuals who lived in the area, including:

  • Parents' names
  • Maiden Names
  • Place of birth, death, or marriage
  • Occupation

Select A Time Period to Research[edit | edit source]

When we chart history, it is often done in the form of a timeline. Timelines are also useful when following the events of a person's life. As you research, you could create a timeline for your ancestors.

The following historical timelines may help direct you as to why your ancestors made the choices that they did.

For additional information about United States Timelines click here.

Local Histories[edit | edit source]

Some of the most valuable sources for family history research are local histories. Published histories of towns, counties, and states usually contain accounts of families. They describe the settlement of the area and the founding of churches, schools, and businesses. You can also find lists of pioneers, soldiers, and civil officials. Even if your ancestor is not listed, information on other relatives may be included that will provide important clues for locating your ancestor. A local history may also suggest other records to search.

Most county and town histories include separate sections or volumes containing biographical information. These may include information on as many as 50 percent or more of the families in the locality.

In addition, local histories should be studied and enjoyed for the background information they can provide about your family's lifestyle and the community and environment in which your family lived. About 5,000 county histories have been published for over 80 percent of the counties in the United States.

Thousands of county histories were published as part of the U.S. Centennial Celebration of 1876. A small fee was charged to be included in these biographical sketches which kept just a few residents from participating.

For many counties, there is more than one history. In addition, tens of thousands of histories have been written about local towns and communities. Bibliographies that list these histories are available for nearly every state. See the search method below for bibliographies.

Local histories are extensively collected by the Family History Library, public and university libraries, and state and local historical societies. Two useful guides are:

Digital Collections

  • The Family History Archive includes histories of families, county and local histories, and much more.
  • GenDisasters, a look back at the events that touched our ancestor's lives - tornadoes, fires, floods, hurricanes, train wrecks, mine explosions, and tragic accidents that became a part of history and our genealogy. Use the links to take you to the types of disasters, or use by location to view catastrophes by state. You may also try the search box.
  • FamilyOld Photos has photographs, vintage portraits, group class photos, town views, mug shots, reunion photos, school photos and more. Over 20,000 photographs, representing over 36,500 surnames, are included. Browse by surname, by state and special sections (Civil War, railroad, circus, fire departments, etc.).

You can find national, state, or local histories of the United States in the Place Search of the FamilySearch Catalog under one of the following:


History in Each State[edit | edit source]