I was consulting with a friend the other day who was writing his family history for publication. He was missing some details on distant cousins. I suggested he look at the two-volume “U.S. Public Records Index” hosted on Ancestry.com.
The “U.S. Public Records Index” is easy to overlook on Ancestry.com. You may have use the “Browse Card Catalog” feature to quickly find it.
The information, which frankly is public record, covers all 50 states from 1950 through 1993. It may be a little shocking for some to know what is considered public record in the United States. However, setting any concerns aside for the moment, be aware, Ancestry.com is simply hosting, not actually generating, the information. The data is already available to the public in other formats. Information may include:
- A person’s first name, middle name or initial and last name
- A street or mailing address
- A telephone number
- A birth date or birth year
- An age
The information is taken from; voter registrations, public filings, historical residential records, various household databases, white pages of the telephone book, directory assistance records, marketing lists, and postal change of address forms. Now saying this, you have to be aware that sometimes an exact date is not attached to the information cited. Yet, for other entries, for the same person, a year is provided making it relatively easy to reconstruct a time line.
There are some limitations. Persons under 18 years old are not listed. Also you may have to look for a female under the name of a former spouse or partner. The best method I have found to use this database is to try all the name variations, such as Patrick Neil Kelly, Patrick N. Kelly and Patrick Kelly. Because the name is common, especially without the middle name, I try to find a birth date. For the deceased you can search the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) and usually get that. With a place of residence or a birth date, you will find the databases relatively easy to use.
When used responsibly, databases such as these can be a treasure trove of solid information from which to track down the various branches of your family.
If you would like professional help with your family history call us at: 385-214-0925.