Look for locality guides … or create your own!

By James M. Beidler

It’s often been said that “all politics is local” but what about genealogy? Well, I’d argue that all genealogy is local, too, as far as to what records are kept (and survived!) or what names (both given and surnames) were popular during what time periods and what types of naming patterns were used. In German research, it’s local as to the arrangement of villages into church parishes (including some that have discontiguous parts) and in American research, it’s local as to what denominations of churches existed for ethnic Germans to attend. The expertise of local historians, too, is often necessary to figure out how families in an area fit together. All these factors mean that it may be in your best interest as a genealogist to find a locality guide. And if you can’t find one, maybe you need to make one!

This all crystalized in my mind a few months ago when I attended a “Create a Locality Guide” workshop presented by Christina Yetzer Drain as part of the Ohio Genealogical Society’s annual conference. I had two objectives in attending: I had just completed work on a genealogy almanac for Pennsylvania (while this isn’t a locality, it’s the same concept on a larger scale) and as I’ve re-entered the world of research for hire, I realized that this would be of benefit to my clients as part of an overall research plan.

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