Genealogists.com estimates that only 7% of the world’s available documents are online. I want you to think about that. Do you have a brick wall that you can’t break through? Maybe this is the reason. Online records are great and I love being able to sit back in my office and go click click click with my mouse but I also do old fashioned research at courthouses, archives, and libraries. I guess it might be easier for me because when I started out in 1991 I didn’t own a computer. It didn’t matter because there wasn’t any genealogical anything online. 100% of my research was done onsite or by snail mail. Some genealogists just starting out don’t understand this. I get many emails from people telling me they can’t find so and so and I ask them did you check ______? I can feel the deer-in-the-headlights reaction in their answer.
The trick is knowing what records are available for that specific location and time period and then knowing how to access them. There are many resources that can help you with this. Here are a just few books to give you an idea of the type of reference material out there that can guide you.
Breland, Claudia. Searching for Your Ancestors in Historic Newspapers. Gig Harbor, Wash.: Claudia Breland, 2014.
Darrow, Carol Cooke and Susan Winchester. The Genealogist's Guide to Researching Tax Records. Westminster, Md.: Heritage Books, 2007.
Eales, Anne Bruner and Robert M. Kvasnicka, editors. Genealogical Research in the National Archives of the United States. Third edition. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2000.
Eichholz, Alice, editor. RedBook, American State, County, and Town Sources. Third edition. Provo, Utah: 2004.
Hone, E. Wade. Land and Property Research in the United States. Salt Lake City, Utah: Ancestry Incorporated, 1997.
Meyerink, Kory L., editor. Printed Sources, A Guide to Published Genealogical Records. Salt Lake City, Utah: Ancestry Incorporated, 1998.
Neagles, James C. U.S. Military Records: A Guide to Federal & State Sources, Colonial America to the Present. Salt Lake City, Utah: Ancestry, 1998.
Rose, Christine. Courthouse Research for Family Historians, Your Guide to Genealogical Treasure. San Jose, Calif.: CR Publications, 2004.
The Handybook for Genealogists. Tenth edition. Draper, Utah: Everton Publishers, 2002.
Szuc, Loretto Dennis and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking, editors. The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy. Third edition. Provo, Utah: Ancestry Publishing, 2006.
Another great resource is the FamilySearch Wiki. This is the first thing I check when I am working in an unfamiliar state, county or record group.
It is a good idea to keep “locality files.” This is a term from an old Family History Library Research Guide on how to organize your paper files. These Research Guides are what people used before the FamilySearch Wiki. Today most genealogists keep electronic notes in applications such as Evernote or OneNote instead of using paper files. You need to create your own reference material for each county, state, country you do research in as well as general reference material on the major record groups (military, land, probate, etc.). This will save you time the next time you are researching someone in that same jurisdiction and time period.