Sometimes it’s hard to find the standard documents of an ancestor’s life: birth certificate, marriage certificate, death certificate. People moved around a lot in the 19th & 20th centuries; courthouses burn or get flooded; paper disintegrates. So, when you hit a brick wall start looking for less common documents: Newspapers, letters, diaries, even Congressional hearings.
In this month’s Prologue, the magazine of the National Archives, an article shows how a Congressional committee heard testimony that included some interesting genealogical gems. Two quotes from the article:
“The committee interviewed 153 black and white witnesses from North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Missouri, Kansas, and Indiana. Many of these witnesses augmented their personal testimony with affidavits, letters, and other forms of evidence provided by members of their local communities who were not called to testify.”
“The Kansas Exodus, as demonstrated by these diverse documents held at the National Archives, is a clear example of how federal records related to a known historical event can be used to find genealogical information. [Emphasis mine–EPC] Genealogical researchers must be highly imaginative in their quest to find information on their ancestors. . . An adequate knowledge of history can help steer the researcher to these potential sources.”