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Praying for Answers

When you've seemed to hit a dead end in your genealogical research, one place you might turn for help is the church. No, I don't mean you should pray for answers. While this may give you some peace of mind if you are religious, a better step is to find churches where your family has been members and ask for records. Often, churches keep records of births, deaths, marriages, communion, baptisms, and other vital events in their members' lives. These records are sometimes hundreds of years old and can provide you with endless clues as to how to continue researching your relatives.

First, contact the church where your parents or grandparents were members. If this is a local place, you can visit in person, but you can also email the church secretary or write to the religious leader. Some churches also keep records of new members and what church they previously belonged to, so even if you don't know where your great-grandparents went to church, records from your grandparents' church may give you a clue. If you have no idea where to start with some of your even older relatives, try visiting the older churches in the town where they lived. Even if you can't find them, you may find other ancestors recorded in the church log.

Graveyards are invaluable tools as well. If the churches did not keep good records, or if your ancestors did not attend, they still have to be buried somewhere. Walk through some of the smaller cemeteries in town to see if you recognize any surnames, or, if available, ask the person in charge for a list of people buried in the cemetery. Make rubbings or take pictures of their tombstones for your records and take note as to who else is buried in the family plot.

Another place to look associated with churches is religious organizations. These organizations, such as the Knights of Columbus or Masonic Lodge always keep extensive records, and some of the lodge members may be able to point you to the correct graveyard to find your family. Many religious organizations even have old photographs that they are willing to share or can offer you information about your relative's involvement with the group.

Overall, don't ignore religious clues, even if you are not religious yourself. When your great-grandparents (and older generations) were alive, they most likely belonged to one church or another. Church records, cemeteries, and religious organizations' files are a great source for tracking down more information about your family history.

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