This category includes thousands of rich collections of published resources that can add depth to your family history. Published family histories may link to your family lines and can include the names, birth, marriage, and death dates, relationships, as well as stories about that family. Although published family histories can contain errors, the clues they contain can lead you and greatly help your research process.
The biographical sketches and oral histories of other people may give insights into what life was like for your ancestor. You’ll also find a record of events that had a profound impact locally, but don’t merit a mention in other history books. If your ancestor had any interaction with the subject of a biography, you may even find a mention of him in the publication.
In addition to actual family histories in biographies, there are several indexes to genealogical and biographical materials, among which is the Biography & Genealogy Master Index (BGMI). This index can alert you to the existence of published biographical and genealogical materials that may not be available online.
Social and place histories will typically contain descriptions of geographic features, transportation routes, and the economy of the area. They can also include historical information on seats of government, public institutions (e.g., prisons, schools, etc.), churches, and charitable institutions. Migration patterns are often mentioned, particularly in relation to the settlement of the area.
Military histories can give you a unique look into your ancestor’s military service. While they may not mention your ancestor by name, they can include details about military battles and engagements, the daily routine, and conditions (e.g., weather, illness, food, supplies, etc.).
If your ancestor had noble or royal lineage, you may find a published genealogy within this category, as well as heraldry and coats of arms. Some publications include images of armorial bearings as well as descriptions and family history information.
The names and dates you find in records create the framework for your family history, and putting what you know into the context of history can help you get to know more about your ancestors.
Even in cases where your ancestor isn't mentioned specifically, learning about local events, social conditions, and the lives of their contemporaries can fill in some of the blanks, give you a more well-rounded view and add interest to your family story.