Huerfano County, Colorado
Researching in Huerfano County

Contributed by Karen Mitchell.
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Before coming to Huerfano County make sure you are familiar with the Huerfano County web pages and all the databases that are there. There's really no sense in spending time looking for something that is already posted on the pages. Try to discern what is NOT on the pages that you need and go after that data.

When you first drive into a small town, locate the local phone company and pick up a phone directory, they are priceless in leading you to different clues and places to visit.

I think the MOST IMPORTANT aspect would be a camera and plenty of film. Take as many pictures as you possibly can, keeping a description of the photos. Put a piece of masking tape on each film canister and number them so that you will know which list goes with which roll of film. When you turn them in to be developed, write that number on the envelope so when they all come back you again know which list goes where. If you have a digital camera, it's a different scenario, but I think you get the idea.

As for actual places to visit...first, the home or homestead of your ancestors. Get those pictures, even if someone else lives there. Just explain to them why you are taking pictures. Most people are pretty friendly and will visit with you and perhaps give you new leads.

Then the cemetery where your ancestors are buried, keep that camera going. You may have to go to several before you get all the headstones of your family.

Next stop of at the Chamber of Commerce office in the area to see what local histories have been published that you might be interested in. If you don't know the area, go here first and pick up a County map.

Now go to the local library to see if you can get obituaries on all your family members. Also check there to see if they have any books for sale that have been written about your ancestors or the general area. The librarians should be able to give you names and phone numbers of any local historians. Don't try to meet with everyone of them. First call and tell them exactly what or who you are researching and ask if they have any data on this person. Don't waste your precious vacation hours by sitting and listening to a narrative on the general area when you want specific information. If you can't meet with these people ask if you can correspond with them and get an address. ALWAYS ask for an email address.

With the obits in hand, hit the local court house to see if you can find wills or deeds.

I would then check in on any museums in the area. You might be pleasantly surprised what you can find there. Maybe old photos of one of your ancestors.

If you are looking for baptism, marriage, death records, make sure you know what religious denomination your family was at that time and go to those churches.

I have been most successful when I let everyone know that I am from out of town and only have 3-4 days to find information, and I question EVERYONE. Example; When I am in a cemetery and notice an elderly person there I never hesitate to start a conversation with them. It normally pleases both of us a great deal. Remember that most elderly people are lonely and are a WEALTH of information.

One place most researchers don't think to stop is at the local nursing home. Find out if your ancestors were ever there, and get copies of those old records if you can.

Another place to check is with the local mortuary. If you know the dates of death they may be able to find more information for you.

This is a very short generalized field plan but I hope it helps. I think the vital key is to ORGANIZE before you go. Know what you need and where you have to go to get it.

Most important of all is to have fun doing your research!

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© Karen Mitchell