Local histories describe the settlement of an area and the founding of churches, schools, and businesses in that area. They may contain information about families. Some county and town histories include separate sections or volumes containing biographical information. Even if your ancestor is not listed in a history, information on other relatives may be included and may provide important clues for finding the ancestor. A local history may also suggest other records to search.
Many county histories were published in the latter part of the nineteenth century, and they often contain brief biographies of the residents. These biographical sketches may include the names of the individual’s parents and grandparents, the maiden name of his wife, and the names of his children, their spouses and children, along with dates and places of family births, marriages, and deaths. Many early county and town histories have been reprinted with indexes, which makes them easier to use. In recent years, new county histories have been published, most of which include genealogical information on early families and current residents. Filby’s A Bibliography of American County Histories lists about 5,000 histories of U. S. counties.
The Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., has a large collection of local histories. Kaminkow’s Local Histories in the Library of Congress lists the library’s holdings in 1976. These volumes are available in libraries with larger genealogical collections.
The LDS Family History Library in Salt Lake City has a large collection of family histories, county histories, and other published material. These materials are listed in the library’s catalog, which is available on microfiche or CD-ROM at LDS Family History Centers and other libraries throughout the United States. Some books have been microfilmed, and the microfilm can be borrowed from the Salt Lake City library at a Family History Center. To find a Family History Center near you, enter your city, county, state, and country on the LDS FamilySearch site.
- Brigham, Clarence S. Bibliography of Rhode Island History.
Boston ; New York : Mason Pub. Co., 1902.
- Carmack, Sharon and Erin Nevius. The Family Tree Resource
Book for Genealogists: The Essential Guide to American County
and Town Sources. F & W Publications, Incorporated, 2004.
Includes a chapter for each state, along with a map of each
state showing each county, the year it became a territory and
state, a listing of state repositories, a historical overview, a
list of record highlights, and a listing of research tips.
- County Histories of the Old Northwest. Series 1:
Wisconsin. 44 reels. New Haven, Connecticut: Research
Publications, n.d. Series contains many county histories.
Appendix A lists the contents of the series. Many volumes
- Filby, P. William. A Bibliography of American County
Histories. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1985. Lists
by state, then county, the major county histories available for
- Flagg, Charles Allcott. A guide to Massachusetts local
history; being a bibliographic index to the literature of the
towns, cities and counties of the state, including books,
pamphlets, articles in periodicals and collected works, books in
preparation, historical manuscripts, newspaper clippings, etc.
Salem, MA: Salem Press Co., 1907.
- Genealogical and Local History Books in Print. 5th
edition. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1997.
Guide to currently available publications listed in geographical
divisions. Index to family genealogies and newsletters. Lists
names and addresses of vendors. Published regularly.
- Kaminkow, Marion J. United States Local Histories in the
Library of Congress. 5 vols. Baltimore: Magna Charta Books,
1975-76. Divided into states, then counties. Identifies local
history materials in LC
- Kirkham, E. Kay. A Handy Guide to Record Searching in the
Larger Cities of the United States. Logan, Utah: Everton
Publishers, 1974. Much of the material is outdated, but provides
information on historic political wards of cities.
- Ludewig, Hermann Ernst. The literature of American local
history : a bibliographical essay. NY, NY: Printed for the
author, by R. Craighead, 1846.
- Peterson. Clarence Stewart, comp. Consolidated
Bibliography of County Histories in Fifty States in 1961.
Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing, 1973. Identifies
the more prominent histories of counties.
RootsWeb. Roots Surname List Country Abbreviations. List of
three-letter abbreviations for foreign countries and for the
counties and other subdivisions of several countries.
- Rothert, Otto Arthur. Local history in Kentucky
literature, a manuscript read before the Louisville Literary
Club, September 27, 1915. Louisville, KY : Press of J.P.
Morton & Co., 1915.
- USGenWeb Project. Site from which the fifty state GenWeb projects can be accessed. An individual state project can be accessed directly by adding the two-letter state abbreviation to the USGenWeb address, e.g., OHGenWeb <http://www.usgenweb.org/oh>. These state projects will eventually have pages for each county. Some county pages provide information on the availability of birth records and other records that provide birth information.