Missing or Scarce Records

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X  Burned courthouse, church or home

X  Records lost through war, vandalism, neglect, or intentional or accidental destruction

X  Frontier or other area with inconsistent record keeping

X  Ancestral family left few records

X  Area, time period, or religion without vital records

X Access restrictions

X  Researcher is unaware of alternative sources

X  Researcher does not know how to find or use evidence


  1. Tax lists
  2. Church minute books or other records
  3. Court order books, minutes, or papers
  4. Militia records
  5. Voter records
  6. Letters, diaries, and other personal papers of community members
  7. Store accounts or other commercial records
  8. Leases or other landlord records
  9. Newspapers
  10. Gravestones or burial records
  11. Legislative or gubernatorial petitions
  12. Other manuscripts, not mentioned above, that may be in private hands, historical societies or archives

Search Strategies

  1. Search subordinate and super-ordinate jurisdictions, especially the following –
  2. State and town records, if county records are missing (for example, court, military, and tax records may be found at different levels or copies of county-level records)
  3. Diocese, if parish records are missing
  4. Search surrounding jurisdictions.
  5. Research relatives, neighbors, and associates, especially those who moved to areas with more records.
  6. Search reconstructed records, if available.
  7. Search records after the period of destruction.
  8. Search well after the ancestor’s lifetime.
  9. Search archives, historical societies, libraries, and other repositories that many have information from the jurisdiction with missing records.
Record-Location Strategies
  1. Study research guides and periodicals for the state, county, and region.
  2. Join the genealogical and historical societies for the region with missing records.
  3. Review case studies demonstrating successful research in the area with missing records.
  4. Follow any trail the records suggest –
  5. Records implying the existence of other records
  6. Records suggesting migration of your research subjects and their relatives, neighbors and associates, especially to jurisdictions where records may be more complete
  7. Records referring to other jurisdictions where records may be more complete
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