The USGenWeb Project News
Volume 4, Number 7
Researching Things That Go Bump In The Night
By Anne Mitchell, Records Editor
Whether you are trying to verify the credibility of a ghost story or attempting to uncover
the identity of a ghost at a particular location, there are a variety of genealogy and historical
records that can be consulted. Researchers can discover that there are an assortment of records
that can be examined at local courthouses, libraries and historical societies.
Before you begin your research, be sure to interview people in the area and take good notes
detailing the assorted variations of the story. Check newspapers at your local library to find any
articles that support the story or provide details of an event that is connected in some way.
Visit the local historical society to see if anyone has already done research on your topic. You
may be able to locate a file that contains newspaper clippings, photos, letters and diaries that
would be helpful in your research. If any part of the story is connected to a crime, contact the
local courthouse to find out the procedure for obtaining copies of docketing information and
The next important aspect of your research is to uncover the history of the location. You
may be able to debunk a rumor of a haunting based on the fact that the property has not been
around long enough. To determine the age of the site and discover the names of previous owners,
deeds and mortgage records can be searched at local courthouses, libraries and historical
societies. The names of individuals who have resided at the location can be cross-referenced
for any given year by consulting city directories. Furthermore, wills and related probate
records can be used to establish the names of individuals who were associated with the property.
Another important step is to establish the personal identity of the ghost to make sure he
or she really existed. Most of the time there is a name connected to the story. If you have a
proposed identity, vital records can be ordered by contacting the Department of Health. Searches
can also be conducted through the use of online genealogy databases like
Just remember, if you want to tell a story about things that go bump in the night this
October, genealogy and historical records can be used to distinguish a true ghost story from
an urban legend!