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A Genealogist In The Archives

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Our Ancestors' Daily Lives and What We Can Find in the Archive

As genealogists we are always searching for the basic genealogy records for our ancestors: birth certificates, marriage records, death certificates, census records, etc. But have you given any thought to your ancestor's daily lives, the daily activities and the records that could have been produced?

A local archive is the genealogist's gold mine when it comes to finding records and ephemera about our ancestor's daily lives and activities. Many times these types of records are not online and can only be accessed on site at the archive.

W.V. Pulley Probate File. Houston County, Tennessee Archives

For instance, your female ancestors and maybe even your male ancestors, shopped at the local grocery store. Maybe your curious about the prices of groceries or what was available. Local mercantile and store records can help you tell that story. You could even find store ledgers in the archive that may have your ancestor's account listed by name with the items they purchased and the cost of each item.

Skelton's Supermarket Flyer ca. 1962. Houston County, Tennessee Archives

Banking Records. Did your ancestor have a bank account or did their banking at the local bank? Banking records can help us when we are trying to piece together our ancestor's financial matters. Banking ledgers are a great resource and can sometimes be found at local or state archives.

Erin Bank and Trust Notes Left at the Bank, ca. 1898. Houston County, Tennessee Archives

Entertainment! Your ancestor's worked hard but they also played when they got the chance. Maybe your ancestor's went dancing, went to the local church social or maybe they saw the latest movie release. Don't think of your ancestors as always putting in a hard days work, when they had the chance they may have attended to the local movie theatre and checked out the latest movie release!

Erin Theatre Handbill, ca. 1958. Houston County, Tennessee Archives

These are just some of the types of records that are in our archives, the possibilities are endless!

It is important that we collect those normal records that give us dates of when our ancestor's lived and the milestones in their lives. But it is just as important to seek out records and ephemera that help to tell our ancestor's full story. Finding records about all aspects of their daily lives will help us to understand our ancestor's better and hopefully bring them to life!

Remember: It's Not All Online, Contact or Visit and Archive Today!

It's Not All Online: Researching In Archives Webinar!

Researching in archives, libraries, historical societies, genealogical societies, courthouses and any other repository can be intimidating. This webinar will show you how to plan ahead for a successful research trip and also help you with your "To-Do List" once you get there. Contacting or visiting an archive will help the genealogist be more successful in their genealogy research.


  1. Melissa, I love your posts about all the cool things to be found in archives. Some day I hope to be able to visit some in the KY, TN and MO areas where my husband's ancestors lived.

    1. Linda, I would love for you to come by the Houston County, Tennessee Archives. I get all the documents from right here in the archives! Our local county and state archives are just packed full of things that you can't find online. Thanks for reading my posts!

  2. Great webinar! Thanks for the encouraging words for those who can't travel very much. I do need to contact a LOT of archives as I've reached the limit on what I can find online for many of my ancestors.

    1. Thank You Christine! I am glad you enjoyed the webinar. Working in an archive every day like I do, I see so many records that are not online and I know that so many other archives have records that are not online.