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This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series Research

Contributing Writer

Researching Local and Family History

Things don’t turn up in this world until somebody turns them up. – James Abram Garfield – 20th President of the United States.

More and more it seems people are interested in history. St. Landry Now encourages the study of history – history of your family, history of your state, history of your community. In doing that we will be publishing a series of articles with tips for Researching History.

What is Research

Defined as “A systematic investigation designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge,” simply put — research is a process to discover new knowledge. Being hooked on history and genealogy from an early age, I got involved in researching my family and my community many years ago. Here are some of the things I learned to help with my research over those years.

Where to Begin

As you begin your research, the first thing you might want to do would be to talk to the older members of your family, and the older citizens of your community. These people have been around a long time and have probably known some of the people you are trying to learn about. They have also lived through some of the events you want to know more about.

Visit Library

Visit your town library. Check out their history and genealogy sections. Today more libraries have computers that allow you to access a wealth of valuable information over the internet that was not available in the past. Take advantage of that service.

Visit Museums and Oral History Events

Other things you can do to help you get started is to visit local and area museums. Go to oral history events in your town and area. Oral history brings people together in a family and in a community. It is an important part of research. As we get older, we realize time with our parents, grandparents and community elders is fleeting and we want to capture their experiences before it is too late.

Go to Storytelling and Folklife Festivals and Events

Another way to gather information is to attend storytelling in your area. People have been relating history through stories from the beginning of time and handing them down generation to generation. Although related to oral history, storytelling is different. Often you know the person who is providing you with their oral history and you can ask them questions. At a storytelling event, you mostly listen to the person telling the story.

Folk life festivals and events are also a good place to gather information. Similar in a way to storytelling and oral history, folklife provides information on the living traditions currently practiced and passed along by word of mouth, imitation, or observation over time and space within groups. These groups include family, ethnic, social class, regional, and others. Living in St. Landry Parish, which is often described as an ethnic weave, we know every ethnic group has folklore and folklife you can learn about.

Read Literature of the Past and About the Past

As the renowned American educator and internationally known author Edith Hamilton (1867-1963) once said, “A people’s literature is the great textbook for real knowledge of them. The writing of the day shows the quality of the people as no historical reconstruction can.”

Local histories, especially parish and town histories, are full of collected town and genealogical information. Besides those community histories, also read family genealogy books. This will not only provide history of local and area families but may also help you discover your own family history.

Historic Maps

Study historic maps of your state, your parish and your town. Town and parish maps may provide details on the town’s original layout and buildings, as well as the names and locations of many of the town residents. Those who study history often use maps from the Sanborn Fire Insurance Company. Sanborn started creating maps in 1867. Today you can have access to digital versions of those maps from 1867 to 1970 by visiting the US Library of Congress and many university library websites.

Next week, part two of this series looks at other ways to help in researching family and community. If you have questions or want more information, contact

Series NavigationResearching Local and Family History – Part Two >>