Research guide

A new publication, Finding Records of Your Ancestors, Part A: African American, 1870 to Present, will be a great help to African Americans who want to discover their ancestors.

This new guide teaches beginning researchers a method for identifying their family records. And because this guide focuses on many kinds of post-slavery records, it is a useful guide for researching any U. S. family—whether or not it is African American.

An expert team at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City researched 14 African American families as they developed the strategy for this guide.

Consultant Michael Ritchey worked with Bill Haley (son of well-known author Alex Haley) to find the records of his grandfather's family used to illustrate this guide. As the team looked for obituaries of Simon Haley, consultant Marie Taylor discovered the obituary of a Haley child who had lived less than a year and who was not known to some of Simon's descendants.

The team found records about Simon Haley's death in a variety of places. There is a death record from West Virginia (he died in a Veteran's hospital nearby), a funeral home record from Washington, D.C., a cemetery record from Little Rock National Cemetery (Arkansas) where he was buried, and an obituary from the Pine Bluff Commercial newspaper (from Pine Bluff, Arkansas, where Simon had lived). Even death records tell something about a life.

The nine types of U.S. records described in this guide are birth records (vital records); cemetery records; census records; death records (vital records); funeral home records; marriage records; obituaries (newspapers); Social Security applications; and the Social Security Death Index.

Users will also learn about useful research aids, such as Web sites that have cemetery records or addresses of local newspaper offices or funeral homes. One Web site lists the vital record offices across the country that have birth, marriage and death records.

There are tips on how to find African Americans if they are not found on the first search. Readers will learn what information is needed to begin a search.

Many records are available on microfilm at family history centers around the country operated by the Church. The guide gives instructions for finding a local family history center.

Staff at these centers can help visitors find and order (for a small fee) records that can be used there.

Designed as self-help for beginning researchers, this guide is also helpful to those with family history callings. Users should already have gathered and recorded what family information they could from home and family sources. This African American guide would be useful to these people: Those searching for African American ancestors, U.S. researchers looking for recent U.S. families, Latter-day Saint researchers with U.S. ancestry (the strategy focuses on finding minimal information needed to identify and seal a whole family), family history center staff members who help others with U.S. research and teachers of a beginning class on African American or U.S. research.

This 36-page full-color booklet can be ordered for $5.25 from Salt Lake Distribution Services at

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