When doing research in Genealogy we sometimes fall into a rut. We continually search the same resources over and over again and we become frustrated that we hardly ever find anything “new” as a result. While there is nothing wrong with any of these sources, sometimes we need to branch out in order to find new information or documentation. Here are 4 greatly overlooked or lesser known resources.
Searching for old Drivers Licenses
It has been over 100 years since the first Drivers license was issued. In 1888 Karl Benz received the first license to drive. This came about because residents of his town complained about the noise and smell of his Motorwagen. Since then a license has been issued to everyone who wanted to drive. In recent years some States have been releasing photos of older licenses. Although the information found on these may not “break down your brick wall” it can help you to verified age, address and other vital information. It can also provide you with a photo of your Ancestor that you never saw before. Do a search for old drivers’ licenses by State and the name of your relative and see what you can find.
WPA American State Guides
The American Guide Series of books was produced by the Federal Writers Project between 1935 and 1943. The Federal Writers Project was one of the many programs under the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a Depression-era government program that assisted the millions of unemployed.These wonderful travel guides cover the 48 states (Alaska and Hawaii were not yet states) and the District of Columbia and each volume covers a state’s history, geography, culture, and includes photographs, maps, and drawings. These guides provide a look at the daily life of many of these States pioneers. Check these out to see if your Ancestor is named. These would also be a great way to find more detailed information about where your Ancestor lived.
Brand registers contain a record of marks (tattoos or cuts on the ear) and brands (burn scars on the hide) used by livestock owners to identify their stock. Owners were required to apply for the brand or mark with the county clerk. Each brand was then registered with the State Recorder of Marks and Brands, which later became the Livestock Board. The records of these brands were recorded beginning in the early 1800’s.
Marks and brands are recorded separately within each register. Entries record applicant and place of residence, illustration of brand or description of where symbol appeared on the animal, date of registration, and line number. Again this type of record can help verify vital information about when and where your Ancestor lived and even what types of animals they owned.
Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps
The Sanborn Maps were originally created for assessing fire insurance liability in the urban areas of the United States. These maps include detailed information regarding town and building information in approximately 12,000 US towns and cities from 1867 to 2007. They are a highly useful resource for historical research, planning, preservation, genealogical research, sociological studies and research of urban geography.
Today, Sanborn maps are found primarily in the archives and special collections of town halls and public and university libraries. Although people in all fields find these maps useful, Genealogists can use the maps to locate the residences and workplaces of their Ancestors. Historic Sanborn maps may be accessed in a variety of ways. Many are available through public or university libraries, or most comprehensively through the Library of Congress.
Sometimes it pays to look “outside the box” so to speak. Even if these records do not show proof that Aunt Mary married Uncle John, they can be of great value. Adding the information that you find in these resources to your trees will help to give it a more personalized touch and can add a glimpse into your Ancestors daily lives. Remember, we don’t necessarily want to just tell the facts about our families; we want to tell the “story” of our families.
I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.