Webinar: Using County Histories (LegacyFamilyTree)

Title: “The Most Prominent Citizens: Using County Histories”
Presenter: Cari Taplin, CG (GenealogyPants.com)
Date viewed: December 9, 2020 (1h15m)
Permalink: https://familytreewebinars.com/download.php?webinar_id=1277


County histories bring rich possibilities to our research through biographical and historical sketches. They provide an abundance of FAN Club members and research clues. We will examine county histories through the use of a case study. Beginning with a research questions, we will examine the methodology of the FAN Club and make some breakthroughs in the research using county history sketches. This program will also discuss where researchers can go to find county histories for their own research.

This was a fun beginner’s webinar on a somewhat niche subject matter: county histories. I have a few county histories in my library collection, but I haven’t bothered to read much through them because I assumed that none of my family members would be in them. And they probably aren’t– for the most part, until 1950 or so, none of them owned land or did anything “prominent,” and often they were so poor they wouldn’t have had the money to buy a biography in a county history anyway.

But Cari brought up a good point that even if your direct ancestors aren’t in a county history, you might be able to find someone in their FAN club (friends-associates-neighbors). And I do have some prominent citizens in my family’s FAN club, so I guess it’s time to finally look through those county histories! Most county histories were written in the few decades surrounding the United State’s centennial celebration, which limits me somewhat since I haven’t made it that far back yet on any of my branches (and at least two branches immigrated in the early 1900s). However, there might be some newer-written histories available that I can look through…I just need to search for them.

I also liked the point she made about using county histories as background research for what life was like for your ancestor in their hometown/county/state. It’ll help to flesh out stories, not just collecting stark names and dates for a tree.

A specific resource mentioned in the webinar was Filby’s Bibliography of American County Histories, which is luckily located on Archive.org as a free library loan (albeit for only 1 hour). I’d also like to mention that Archive.org has scanned copies of many county histories, and it’s a good place to start searching if you’ve never looked before.


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