Genealogy Research in Arizona
A few years ago my father told me that he had an uncle who had come to Arizona and he would sure like to know what ever happened to him. Before that I didn't think I would ever be looking in Arizona for any of my family. When I began looking in earnest I found he had moved to Big Bug in the late 1800s. Census records helped locate where he was through the 1930s, but then I needed to use Arizona specific resources, and Arizona has lots of them.
To find your Arizona ancestors, first gather all the information your family has and then, stop at the local library, historical society and /or family history center. In just our small part of Yavapai County, we have Historical Societies in Sedona, Clarkdale, Jerome, Camp Verde, and the Verde Historical Society, which is at the Clemenceau Museum, plus a local Family History Center.
Family History Centers try to have some information on the local area, plus they have access to libraries, and databases that can help you focus your search. Local libraries can also have information that you can't find other places. Often a family will publish a family book and donate it to the local library, or you may find that a library has collected the annuals of the local high school. Historical societies differ on the type and the amount of information that they can house, but the people who sponsor them are interested in the local history and will know who else in the community can help you. I have had such great success with Historical Societies that if there is one available I always try to contact them.
Next visit www.genweb.org and find Arizona. Check out the county you are researching in and it will give you not only the data they have collected but will tell you about special projects they are working on. Through this free site you can ask questions and be put in touch with people who are researching in Arizona.
The County Court should also be looked at. Depending on the county, this will be where you will find probate and land records, as well as court proceedings. Contact them online or through a phone call first to see what exactly they have and what you need to do to look at their records, as this can differ from county to county.
The State Archives is definitely a reason to go to downtown Phoenix. It has a special Arizona Collection complete with old maps and pictures. The Archives is currently located in the State Capital and among many other records it has early newspaper records on microfilm, marriage licenses, probate records, naturalizations, tax rolls, and even some driver's license registration beginning 1866-1876 and 1912.
Sponsored by the State Archives are the Arizona Birth Records 1887-1903 and Death Records from 1875 1955. These are found online at http://genealogy.az.gov/. You can view the actual record, print a copy and/or send for a certified copy.
Sharlot Hall, in Prescott, is a gold mine of records related to early Yavapai County, history. There you find obituaries, cemetery records, pension records and many surprises that families have donated, as well as information about early state census Arizona had a number of them as it was preparing to attain statehood.
Here's how my Arizona search went. A search of Arizona birth and death records yielded 2 birth and 3 family death records. An old Arizona Map book, from the State Archives helped find the long ago disappeared town of Providence, Arizona, where one family grave is located. A visit to USGenWeb put me in touch with an Arizona researcher who located an obituary I needed. Next a trip to Sharlot Hall answered many of my questions. It was there I found the rest of the obituaries and the Pioneer Home records, which led to other cemetery records and the pension application filled out by my great-uncle. My great-uncle was buried at Mayer and though the grave is no longer visible, I was able to contact a person who had recorded the cemetery years earlier and had recorded his grave.
It is great to live near the area you are researching, especially if that is Arizona. Not only are there lots of easily accessible records, but also the weather generally cooperates. Enjoy the Journey.