The National Institute for Genealogical Studies


The National Institute for Genealogical Studies - LEADERS IN ONLINE GENEALOGY EDUCATION

Vital Statistics in Newspapers

Vital Statistics in Newspapers

Vital records are the listings of births, marriage, and deaths recorded for a given town, county or state. The vital records that we seek are a relatively new record, in many instances not coming into existence until the 1900s.


When searching for births marriages, or deaths, the first place that we look is the officially recorded records at the town, county, or state level. One of the problems with these records is that as you go from the more local governments to the state, you will quickly discover that the certificates were not recorded for many years.

Newspapers can fill in gaps, either when the records were not kept or when there was limited information written in the earlier registers. Entries of birth, marriages, and deaths may offer additional information about the family. Unlike the vital records that often include only basic information an in a standard format, newspaper entries are sometimes full of information. Working in newspapers also means looking in a number of different places for the various announcements of birth, baptism, marriage, death, and burial.

With the United States: Newspaper Records course you will learn more about what you can discover in your research.

Financial Matters and Your Genealogy Business

Your Genealogy Business

Tracking money is not just mindless busywork. It has a purpose. Keeping track of money as it flows in and out of your business is a process that is key to providing you with the necessary information on how your business is doing which leads to better decision making. Managing your financial resources will involve the following aspects of money management:

  • accounting/bookkeeping/budgeting
  • profit/loss
  • cash flow
  • tax reporting
  • break-even analysis
  • credit and collections

For a small sole proprietorship, weekly bookkeeping and periodic budgeting can be a simple process, and many small business owners do very well using just a spreadsheet to keep their financial records.


Accounting reports are useful for reporting and planning purposes. The basic financial reports useful to an owner of a small genealogy business include:

  • Balance Sheets– This is a very basic look at your business ownership at a particular point in time, usually at the end of each month.
  • Profit/Loss Statement– This covers a specific period of time, such as one month, one quarter, or one year.
  • Budget– This serves as a guide for your activities.

If you have ever had a month – in business or even in your personal life – when you did not know where you would get the money to pay the bills, you have an understanding of what cash flow is. In a service business such as genealogy research, cash does not always flow smoothly. Genealogy research projects can take extended periods of time, sometimes six months or more.

Project Management 

A significant portion of your income may come from projects that you complete for your clients. In order to be adequately paid for your work, it is necessary to keep whatever records are necessary to enable you to invoice your clients. Depending on how you charge your clients, you may need to keep track of your time and/or expenses, or simply charge per project as you deliver them. When you complete the work, something should trigger you to issue an invoice.

Financial administration involves many aspects of managing money as it comes in and goes out of your business. Through the Business Skills: Business Administration course you will gain a better understanding of the financial matters in your business.

Your Ancestor’s Locations

Your Ancestor’s Locations 

It is extremely important to learn about the location(s) our ancestors lived. We need to be aware of when certain jurisdictions were formed, what records were kept and when, which jurisdictions were responsible for keeping specific records, and what records are currently accessible.


Keep in mind that jurisdictional boundaries may have changed over time, so it is important to keep track of what jurisdictions a location was a part of during the time the family resided there. Therefore, the use of historical and modern-day maps is essential. For example, the area now known as the City of Auburn in New York was a part of Onondaga County until 1799 when Cayuga County was formed.

Another problem we run into is location name changes. Consider the city of Auburn, New York as an example. It was originally known as Hardenberg’s Corners situated in the town of Aurelius. In 1805, it became the Cayuga County seat and was renamed. We also need to learn about the history of the location. In the United States, local histories can provide a wealth of information. We can often learn about what types of groups settled in a location, where they came from, and if they later dispersed, giving us wonderful clues for further research. There are a variety of recourses available to help us learn about different locations.

Finally, we need to understand the laws that were in place for the time period and location we are studying. This includes such things as the minimum age for marriage and if parental consent was allowed for those underage. Of course, keep in mind that the law is always changing; what may have been the legal age for marriage at one time, maybe different fifty years later.

What do you need to know about your ancestor’s location? To find out, check out the course Skill-Building: Breaking Down Brick Walls which offers tips and techniques you need for researching your ancestors.

Mapping Your Ancestors

 Mapping Your Ancestors 

Geography is an important element in your family history research. Did your ancestor contend with mountains, valleys, or waterways? The best way to answer these questions and potentially uncover new research avenues is to take a look at maps, particularly those contemporary to the time periods with which you are researching.


  • Physical maps are most helpful in determining a person’s location relative to their surroundings, including boundaries, roadways, railways, waterways, and sometimes places of interest, such as churches and schools.
  • Political maps can help determine neighboring jurisdictions and that may contain records about your ancestors.
  • Plat maps, in most cases, are sketches that depict property boundaries of a particular area. Many of these maps also include a variety of physical features, such as roadways, railways, waterways, schools, churches, cemeteries and landscape elements. Plat maps may also indicate the landowner for each parcel.
  • Topographic maps are helpful for learning the details of a location’s landscape. These maps are helpful for determining if land features such as waterways, mountains, or valleys may have influenced your ancestor’s decision to attend a church or register a birth in a different place than you would have expected.

As with many resources, there are various ways to find and access maps. With our Skill Building: Breaking Brick Walls Course you will learn more ways to use these maps.

Understanding Newspapers

 Do You Understand What You are Reading?

As you begin searching for mentions of your ancestor in the newspaper, you may begin to wonder if you are reading a foreign language. The vernacular or abbreviations that you are reading are the result of the newspaper world, or the general colloquialism of the time.


 Abbreviations may be a little more prevalent than you anticipated as a result of the limited typeface of the publisher. Some of these abbreviations may have been encountered in other records including census, vital, land, or probate. Some of the abbreviations were used when there was limited space, perhaps where the vital records announcements might have been included, for instance.  

  • Inst. – is the abbreviation for instant and means that the event took place in that month. 
  • Ult. – is the abbreviation for Ultimo, a Latin word that refers to the past month.  
  • Esq. – which actually comes at the end of the name and is the abbreviation for Esquire.  

Remember that as you are working in older newspapers that the terms are not always the same in meaning as they are now. So, you may find that reading through certain news stories can take a little more time than reading a news story in today’s papers. With our United States: Newspaper Records course, you will learn more research techniques when using these records in your research.

United States Newspapers

US Newspapers 

Newspapers offer a window to the past. They are the real-life recordings of our ancestors’ history. Unlike history books, family histories written years later, or memoirs, newspapers were recording the news at the time it was actually happening.


One of the reasons that many researchers do not investigate what newspapers may be available is because they often assume that searching the newspaper requires going page by page and issue by issue. This is not always the case; there is a method to the arrangement of the newspaper. Like any genealogical resource, it is important that you take the time to become familiar with it.  

Remember that the purpose of the newspaper was to disperse information to its readership. The editor’s job was to keep the town or city informed of not just what was going on in the world, but also in the country, state, county and city.  Small town newspapers, and those begun during the early settlement of a town or county, may often contain more personal news about its residents than larger cities. Newspapers are one way to get some insight into the life of your ancestors.  

As genealogists we want information about our ancestors. When we can’t find a birth, marriage, or death record, we may turn to the newspaper to see if we can find an announcement of the event. In addition to vital records, there are many miscellaneous items in the newspaper that may hold tidbits of information about the families you are seeking. You may find mention of the following:  

  • Family news 
  • Voter list 
  • Jury list 
  • Social events 
  • Political meetings 
  • Gossip 
  • Legal notices 

Newspapers record the news at the time it was happening as well as revealing society’s manners and attitudes for a given moment in time. With the United States:  Newspaper Records course you will maneuver the arrangement of these useful resources.  

Strategic Planning for Your Genealogy Business

Once you set up your small business it is not enough to simply sit back and wait for clients to come to you. In order to keep the business viable and successful, you must focus your attention on its overall operation and growth. This is where a Business Plan can help.


Setting up and Reviewing Your Business Plan

The first process in developing a business plan is strategic planning. The process of developing and updating your plan has many advantages.

  • It helps to clarify your thinking about your vision and mission.
  • It gives you a plan that is tailored to you, your personality, and your situation.
  • It helps you to take the best advantage of your skills and interest.

Your initial business plan should include the following elements:

  • Title Page
  • Executive Summary
  • Business Description
  • Management
  • Marketing Strategy

Strategic planning is a process that an established business uses to review all areas and to plan for the future, both short term and long term. The initial business plan can be used as a starting point for the review and planning process, particularly in the early years of operation, and some of the same thought processes are involved in both.

Your Mission and Vision Statements

One of the most basic elements of your business is a mission statement. The mission statement is a sentence (or two or three) that sums up the essence of your business-what products or services you aim to provide, who the customers are and what value your business can offer to them, how your business distinguishes itself for the competition, and what values you hope to embody in your business.

A vision statement is usually more far-reaching; it is based on your mission statement and relates to the outcome you envision. Your vision statement sums up the impact you imagine you will have through your business. The statement is intended to inspire anyone who hears or sees it.  Through the course, “Business Skills: Business Administration” you will identify the various elements in creating your business plan, mission and vision statement.

Growing Your Genealogy Business

When, why, and how to grow your genealogy business are important questions to tackle. These questions may always be in the back of your mind, but unless you formally address them periodically, you may never take the necessary actions, or you may find your business growing in a way you do not like or are not prepared for. Some small business owners are content, and rightly so, with the size of their business, which suits them perfectly. Growing your business is not a requirement.


The bigger your business, the less personally involved you can be in all of its operations. Thus, a bigger business requires different ways of doing things, more structure, and organization.  As you grow your business consider:

  • creating a team  that can  give you valuable advice
  • hiring an assistant
  • committing to a growth strategy

Following good business administration practices as shown throughout the course, Business Skills: Business Administration will help you maintain an awareness of just where you stand and help you reach your goals.



Creation of Vital Records in the United States

Creation of Vital Records in the United States 

In order to understand where vital records can be found and what they can tell you about your ancestor, it’s important to understand a little history of these records. 

Birth Records 

Birth  records were slow to be brought into compliance within the states.  Some states were very slow to adopt the statewide recording for vital records.  Georgia and New Mexico were the last two states to adopt a statewide policy in  1919.  However, Texas took until 1933, to meet the 90% (of records being recorded) completeness standard.  

The  earliest birth records reflected the child’s name; that is if the child was named at the time of birth. It will include the names of the parents and the date of the child’s birth. It might also ask where the parent was born. If a baptismal record is located it will state the date of baptism in the church record, not the date of birth.

Marriage Records 

Marriage records are kept by the county in which the ceremony took place and typically by the state as well. If you have a copy of a marriage license application, note the questions answered. Consult the Red Book, found on the RootsWeb Wiki  for years when marriage records were kept by the county and state your ancestor lived in.

Used with permission Angela Rodesky

Divorce Records 

Some people feel that divorce records are a vital record but they are really a court record. However, they usually do contain vital record information that would be considered reliable, but in need of documentation. When doing family history research, this record should not be ignored as it might lead you to further research opportunities.

They Aren’t Perfect 

Are vital records perfect? No, realize that people can falsify records on purpose, as well as by accident. There are many reasons for having incorrect information on birth, marriage, and death records. What reasons would there be for incorrect information?  

  • A distraught spouse will respond incorrectly to a question; such as, “mother’s maiden name” either because they are guessing or just confused.  
  • A respondent may fail to fill-in “all of the blanks.” 
  • The clerk wrote the information incorrectly. 

It’s also very important to remember spelling does NOT count before about 1910! Think up every possible way one can spell a surname and use those variations when you search online databases.  

With our United States: Vital Records course you will learn more ways to view and access these vital records and more. Learn more about the course and register on our website. 

Understanding & Using US Vital Records

Understanding & Using US Vital Records  

Vital records are the most important documents needed as you begin to prove your family lineage. It is necessary to know when vital records started for the researcher’s place of interest because not every state began keeping records at the same time. The records created in the last century can provide detailed information about a person. Whether a birth, marriage or death record, all ask for the full name; date and place of birth; parents’ names; and in some instances, even more in-depth information about the person.

Used with permission Angela Rodesky


Most states were not instantly compliant in collecting vital record information. Many took years to come into compliance. Just because they started keeping records in 1910 does not mean they kept ALL records. Nor does it mean that ALL people were willing to have their vital information recorded.  

All vital records are not created equal! Success will depend on the time frame and the area you are searching. With our United States: Vital Records course, we will give you the tools needed to understand and use vital records.  

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