How-To Essay #5 - So, you think you've looked everywhere

You've hit a brick wall. Your family line trickles off into nothingness. Aliens abducted great uncle Hubert. You may think you've looked everywhere for your family, but sometimes it's easy to miss the obvious. And, I just may have a few new ideas for you. Contact me for more. I do better when I have a location to work from.
And be patient. Many resources below are not readily available yet. Give us time. While waiting, utilize the sources
that are available, or volunteer to help out your own local county getting information online for others.
So many books, so little time. Search beyond the standard biographical collections and historical sketches. Try church
centennial books, city directories and current works. The Rock County Genealogical Society, Rock County Historical Society and the Janesville Gazette are printing new books every year. You can find many of them listed at Origins Genealogy bookstore online.
There is more to a cemetery than tombstones. Don't forget the cemetery records.
So you don't live in the area or near an LDS library. Get a look-up. Really. It's worth it. Don't assume it can't tell you
anything you don't already know.
Many churches have excellent historical records. What church did they belong to? What religion? What's the closest
church to your ancestor's home? Did they belong to any church groups? And don't forget baptisms, christenings, confirmations, weddings and funerals.
Birth, marriage and death certificates are great, but what about wills and probate records? Land records? Was your
ancestor ever involved in a lawsuit? Was he ever arrested for letting his cow run loose one too many times?
What did they do for a living? If your ancestors owned a business, check the city or township for licensing information.
Check newspapers for advertisements. What were the businesses in the area that covered the field your ancestor was employed in? How many breweries, mills, tailors or furniture manufacturers? Were they Union members?
Funeral homes were not as prevalent back then as they are today. Have you written the local funeral home for burial
information or funeral arrangement sheets? This information is usually free with an SASE.
Courthouses, plat maps, homesteading.
Books, newspapers and so much more. Rock County's libraries are part of the Arrowhead Library System and their
holdings are searchable online. If you find a likely suspect among their stacks, contact a volunteer for a free look-up.
Specifically, plat maps. If you haven't seen them, you're missing out. If your ancestor was a landowner, a plat map
can show the property location and size. The 1873 Combination Atlas Map of Rock County, Wisconsin, has plat maps for every township, city and village and will be online soon. Until then, check with the Rock County Genealogical Society who has copies for sale.
Does the hospital hold any records regarding birth, illnesses or death? How about coroner's records? Local physicians
Post everywhere. There are many message boards out there and the more places you post, the more it will be read.
Links to several can be found at WI-ALHN-Rock County. Read Essay #5 to get the most out of your posting.
Think beyond the Civil War and World Wars I and II. Was your ancestor in the service during peacetime? Try the
veteran administration. And, of course, contact them about your war veteran. Also check with the Rock County Historical Society regarding any veteran memorials. Your ancestor may be listed on a plaque.
More than just obituaries. Check for advertisements for the family business or employer, birth and marriage
announcements, and basic interest articles. Was your family in the area during a big storm? Did they go visiting relatives out of the area? Did his cows ever escape and rampage the neighborhood? When they died, was there an auction? Old newspapers were full of this type of information.
Masons, Woodman, American Legion, VFW, there are hundreds of organizations. The organization may hold records
about your ancestor.
So maybe great grandpa wasn't mayor of Janesville. Was he a member of the school board for Union Township? The
number of available offices for even a rural area is astounding. When the county was young and sparsely populated, it's very possible your ancestor was politically involved. Township halls may hold the key.
Schools districts may hold records about your ancestors childhood or, at least, be able to give you the history of the
Just because the Rock County Genealogical or Historical Society hasn't written a book about your ancestor, doesn't
mean they don't hold information about him. Contact them and you may hit gold.
Even if you write all possible sources and find they have no further information beyond his being a member or holding
an office, at least you'll be able to write "Although we don't yet know the date of Hubert's death, we do know that he was very active in his community. He was a member of..."
And knowing that great grandpa was a Lutheran, member of the school board and farmer with loose cows IS something
to write home about.
Online references:
WIGenWeb-Rock County website
WI-ALHN-Rock County website
Rock County Genealogical Society website
Rock County Historical Society website
Origins Genealogy bookstore website
Arrowhead Library System website
Wisconsin Historical Society Area Research Center (covers Rock County) website
(c)2002 Lori Niemuth* <>
*Please be aware that I'm not a genealogy, history or geology expert. I welcome any corrections or additions.
©2002-2005 ALHN-Rock County, Wisconsin
Last updated: April 24, 2005