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The point is, the better you know a location and its people, the better you will understand the records and there will be less of a chance that you will make false assumptions. At the very least, you should be reading local history books whenever you are working in a new county. The older the books, the better. Older books are a good thing anyway because they are out of copyright and available for free online. Why older? Simply because they will have been written closer to the time you are studying so they should be more accurate (though older accounts of events tend to be embellished a bit). Old genealogies are great too. Even if they aren’t sourced they can be fairly accurate because the people interviewed by the author are more likely to have had first hand knowledge. Church histories are great. Knowing who founded the church, who the original members were and who donated the land is very helpful. Know a little bit about the local businesses. When and by whom were they founded. Contemporary local history books often contain church and business histories.

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Olive Tree Genealogy

A few years ago I started reconstructing ships’ passenger lists to New Netherland (present day New York) from various sources (see below for details) In some cases, I’ve been able to reconstruct names for a ship list that has never been published before!

In other cases, I’ve been able to add names to previously published lists. This is an Olive Tree Genealogy exclusive and is freely available at ships’ passenger lists to New Netherland

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FamilySearch Lookup Service

You may not be aware, but earlier this year, FamilySearch announced a free lookup service for genealogy books and microfilm available at the renowned Family History Library in Salt Lake City. The response to this offer was overwhelming, 1000s of people contacted the Library to take advantage of this free service. Another way to utilize this service is to start with a limited preview of Google Books and the Library will then scan the entire page and email it to you for free.

This process is explained in detail in a blog post by Nathan W. Murphy.