Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2009 | midnight
We can research late-20th century individuals.
We use the same methods we employ when we research earlier eras. We simply use different tools to pry loose the data. This column explores a few sources that can provide rich data from the not-so-distant past.
Researchers will find information on deceased military veterans in the Nationwide Gravesite Locator Web site operated by the Department of Veterans Affairs (http://gravelocator.cem.va.gov). The database may provide birth, death, rank, branch of military, and wartime service from the American Revolution through the Persian Gulf wars.
Using data from the gravesite locator researchers may seek yearbooks from military posts where the deceased was stationed. For example, the Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Cherry Point, N.C., published annual yearbooks, many of which reside in the station library. I found my father and his compatriots in a few of the annual base publications. The yearbooks are arranged by air groups, so I found my father pictured among those with whom he daily worked. I will check for similar yearbooks from now-closed Marine Corps Air Stations at the Flying Leatherneck Historical Foundation and Aviation Museum at MCAS Miramar in San Diego, Calif. (http://www.flyingleathernecks.org/).
The public has access to manuscript census population schedules only to 1930; we will not be able to view manuscript 1940 schedules until 2012. However, our ancestor's address (which we may find in city or county directories) enables us to obtain rich census data through 2000. We search census maps to find the census tract number in which our research target lived. We then consult detailed census statistics for the particular census tract. Regional Federal depository libraries in each state hold census publications in their Government Documents departments. Check the Federal Depository Library Directory (FDLD) (http://catalog.gpo.gov/fdlpdir/FDLPdir.jsp) to find the regional depository or selected depository libraries in each state.
School yearbooks provide excellent windows into the lives of late-twentieth-century individuals. Many public libraries maintain collections of local school yearbooks, including those from private schools. Check with the librarian in charge of local history. Public and university libraries also maintain manuscript collections of local dignitaries. Consult the manuscripts librarian for collections of local leaders with whom your ancestor may have conducted business.
In the 1960s many universities began collecting oral histories from local folk. You may not see your relative's interview in the catalog, but you might find her mentioned in the oral history of a friend, neighbor, colleague, or cousin. You will also find a wealth of information on the area for the time in which your ancestor lived. For example, the Nevada Test Site Oral History Project at University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) is complete and on line (http://digital.library.unlv.edu/ntsohp/). The Web site allows users to search within transcribed histories for persons or keywords. Check the university in your area of research for similar projects.
Land records, even those recorded yesterday, are public documents. Many counties supply on-line indexes on their Web sites. For example, the Clark County Recorder provides a search engine to Clark County conveyances (http://recorder.co.clark.nv.us/extReal/Navigate.asp?MainMenu.x=45&MainMenu.y=2). The site appears to show records back to 1950, but the earliest transaction I found was recorded in 1978. Thorough researchers will consult complete indexes and original deeds at the County Government building.
The above-described record groups provide only a sampling of those available that enable us to find valuable information on late-twentieth-century individuals. The twentieth century produced an abundance of records that family and non-family researchers may utilize. We cannot afford to overlook any of them.
Stefani Evans is a Board-certified genealogist and a volunteer at the Regional Family History Center. She can be reached c/o the Home News 2275 Corporate Circle, Suite 300, Henderson, NV 89074, or firstname.lastname@example.org.