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Genealogy Center: FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

1.  How do I obtain a copy of a birth or death certificate?

The Department of Health and Human Services publishes a document titled Where to Write for Vital Records. Look up the state in which the event occurred to find the address and fee information for obtaining birth, death, marriage, and divorce certificates. Since vital records are handled at the state level, Internet services vary greatly. You can find the home pages for all fifty state governments by using State and Local Government on the Net. From the state home page, you can search for information on how to request vital records from that state. You can obtain Oklahoma birth and death certificates locally at the Oklahoma Department of Health, 5051 S .129th East Ave., Tulsa, OK 74134. They are open between 8:30 AM and 4 PM, Monday-Friday. Their phone number is 918-549-4840.

2.  What does my last name mean?

The meanings of our surnames can give us important information about our families. The country of origin is usually included with the meaning.  Some library branches have surname dictionaries which contain many prominent family names; however, the Research Center at Central Library and the Genealogy Center have the widest variety of surname dictionaries.

3.  Where can I find the coat of arms for my family?

Heraldry is the study of a family's coat of arms. Coats of arms were granted to individuals for services rendered. Because of this practice, individual family members may have very different coats of arms. There are books about heraldry and coats of arms located at the Genealogy Center. To be able to identify your ancestor's coat of arms, you would have to determine the name of the ancestor who was actually granted a coat of arms and then locate his specific coat of arms.

Many people locate a coat of arms belonging to a person with the same surname as theirs and use that for their family's coat of arms. Although this is an accepted practice in the United States, it is not legally accepted in countries such as England and Scotland who maintain a registry of arms.

4.  How can I find my family history on the Internet?

Using the Internet to locate genealogical information is becoming very popular. Each day more and more information is added to the internet to assist researchers. To locate actual family records, a researcher should begin by searching more established Web sites maintained by archives, libraries, museums, institutions, etc. These sites are linked to other sites that may be of help to researchers. Many researchers have put family Web pages on the Internet. By locating these sites, researchers can connect with each other and share information.

Remember that information found on the Internet is not always reliable and correct. Once you locate family information, verify everything by checking documentation and sources. Researching your family's history requires many hours of research, documentation and reading.

5.  Where do I locate a marriage record?

Marriage records are located in the county courthouse in the county where the marriage occurred. One way to determine a county location would be to find the individual on the federal census at the time of marriage and check that county's records. Most counties have indexes of both the bride's name and the name of the groom. Using these indexes, the date and location of the actual marriage certificate can be obtained.

6.  Are the Mormon Church's genealogy records available to the public?

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (also known as the Mormon Church) maintains the largest collection of genealogy materials in the world. The Genealogy Center has been designated a FamilySearch Center and can borrow microfilm materials from St. Lake City. For more information go to the Additional Resources tab and look at the Family History Center box.

7.  What is the latest census information that is available for research?

The federal census has been taken every 10 years since 1790. The earliest censuses contain only the names of the heads of households. From 1850 forward, names of every person were included on the census.

The census contains helpful information such as age, place of birth, and occupation. Later censuses contain immigration and naturalization information. The census is arranged by state and then by county. A census exists for every state that was a state at the time the census was taken. Knowing when the state you are researching became a state will aid you in determining the earliest census that is available for that state. 

Alphabetical indexes exist for the census years 1790-1870. For years 1880 and beyond, the soundex system is used. Most of the 1890 census was destroyed in a fire in 1921.

Currently, there is a 72 year privacy law in effect making the 1940 census the latest census available for researchers.

8.  Where are genealogy collections and resources located?

There are many places a researcher can locate genealogy materials. Legal documents such as birth and death certificates and marriage records will be located with the issuing agency. Other places to search would be state archives and libraries, historical and genealogical societies and public libraries. These depositories will maintain local and state records such as military records, cemetery and funeral home records and local newspapers. Because researchers are interested in where their ancestors lived, these local records will prove very helpful in documenting the daily lives of our ancestors.

If it is impossible to make a personal visit to the local area where your ancestor lived, many of the agencies will do limited research for a nominal fee. Many of these agencies maintain a Web site listing their policies, addresses, etc.

9.  How can city directories assist me in my family research?

If your ancestors lived in the city, you may find listings for them in city directories. These directories predate telephone books and list city dwellers by name and address. Using city directories you can determine when a person first arrived in the area, where he lived and when he left the area or died. The directories usually give the name of the wife. Often, they include an occupation in the listing.

City directories for the city of Tulsa are located on the 4th Floor of the Central Library. The Genealogy Center has Tulsa city directories for 1929, 1930, 1939, 1940, and 1941.

10. How can I locate old newspapers?

Many genealogists use newspapers to discover information about their family. If families lived in rural areas, local newspapers were usually full of information about local citizens. Many carried stories about church news, 50th wedding anniversary celebrations, family reunions, funerals, etc. These smaller papers devote more space to the local citizenry than larger news stories and events. These newspapers can be a gold mine of information to researchers.

Most newspapers were not indexed before the early 1990s -- many are still not indexed. Researchers need to know exact dates to locate articles.

Local public libraries and state archives maintain copies of older newspapers. They will usually make copies of articles, but will not be able to spend time searching for articles. Some institutions loan copies of their newspapers on microfilm through interlibrary loan.

Newspapers for the city of Tulsa are located at the Central Library.

Newspapers for cities and towns in Oklahoma are located at the Oklahoma Historical Society newspaper archives in Oklahoma City, OK.