From: Ann Rivera
How does one even know if a family ever experienced a stillborn birth, or death of a small child between censuses, if the child never appeared in a census to begin with? Just curious, as I came across some stillborn record births and it occurred to me that I wouldn't even look at these if I never had any reason to believe there was such a birth.
What a great question! I attended a class yesterday where the instructor Tricia Williams was discussing the importance of using census records in our genealogical research. She has a friend in the class who detests censuses because newbie researchers focus on those and don't look for other records out there that are considered more reliable. Tricia graciously pointed out that:
CENSUS RECORDS PLACE OUR ANCESTORS in a specific place at a specific time, so we are then able to look for OTHER RECORDS IN THAT SPECIFIC PLACE that have survived from the time period our ancestors lived.
How do you know any such death records exist? We cannot make generalizations, since each county, state or country set its own rules for when vital records should begin to be kept. I'd look at:
-- the RESEARCH OUTLINE from http://www.familysearch.org/Eng/Search/RG/frameset_rhelps.aspfor the state or country where the ancestors lived. Expect to find a listing of the types of vital records and the dates when they began to be kept.
-- the HANDYBOOK FOR GENEALOGISTS mentioned often in ol' Myrt's columns, which list specific counties in each state and when records began to be kept, including which have been known to survive.
-- USGenWeb - Visit http://www.USGenWeb.com to see what is known about surviving records by other experienced researchers for those areas where your ancestors once lived.
-- STATE OR TERRITORIAL CENSUS - Find out about these at USGenWeb or in the HANDYBOOK.
-- The (FHL) FAMILY HISTORY LIBRARY CATALOG at http://www.familysearch.orgBe sure to look for each locality at the county (or town level in New England) in the appropriate states. Remember the microfilm of public vital records is a priority, and the FHL has records from over 80 countries throughout the world. Once you find a likely microfilm, print out the page, and take it with you to your local LDS Family History Center to order the microfilm. It will cost about $5.50 and will arrive in a few weeks. Good luck!
I agree with you that it is important to document "complete" families, not just the one son or daughter of our direct lineage. I certainly would not wish to exclude a sibling from a family unit merely because he didn't live the ten years between enumerations.
Happy family tree climbing!
Your friend in genealogy.