Genealogy research can feel overwhelming if you don't know where to look. When it comes to researching your family's history, start with public records. Public records are documents recorded and maintained by public agencies, like the Census Bureau.
Here is a brief list of public records that could contain information about your family:
*Did you know? Before 1913, North Carolina did not record or collect births records. In this case, it's best to use North Carolina school records, since they date as far back as the early 1800s.
If you're trying to locate vital records, such as birth and death certificates, marriage licenses, and divorce certificates, start with these 3 resources:
Census records contain information about where your ancestors lived, their occupations, and who else was living with them. They also include details like age, military service, education, and personal description. Here's some additional information about census records:
During your research, keep in mind that census takers often misspelled names. For example, Glory vs. Gloria, Edna vs. Etta, and Canedy vs. Kennedy. Additionally, information provided in census records could be incorrect because of distrust and fears about privacy, so another tip to keep in mind is do not take census records at face value.
While the census, vital records, immigration reports, military records, and old newspaper articles are the most common sources to turn to in genealogical research, it’s also beneficial to use uncommon and underutilized sources of information, like yearbooks. High school and college yearbooks could contain more information about your ancestors and their younger years.
At Central Piedmont Community College, we have yearbooks from Carver College and Mecklenburg College. We also have a selection of Central High School yearbooks, which can also be found on DigitalNC, courtesy of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.
If you’re interested in exploring yearbooks as part of your research, here are some places to start looking:
Like yearbooks, city directories are uncommon and underutilized sources of information in genealogical research. City directories were created annually and contained listings of residents, streets, businesses, organizations, and institutions.
With city directories, you’re able to track your family members year by year and when they moved to a different location or if their economic situation changed. Some directories also list spouses in parentheses, marital status, and even include a brief mention of where residents worked.
For example, Raymond V. Mason (Central Piedmont’s first historian) shows up in a 1959 Charlotte City Directory as “serv mgr Hutton-Scott.” This is short for “service manager at Hutton-Scott,” a car dealership in Charlotte. A 1964 Charlotte City Directory lists him as “tchr” (or teacher) at Central Piedmont Community College.
At Central Piedmont Community College, we have Charlotte City Directories donated to us by the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. You can also find these directories online through DigitalNC.
To learn more about city directories, visit FamilySearch.