The Records have been destroyed, lost or damaged!

The Records have been destroyed, lost or damaged!

The Records have been destroyed, lost or damaged!

Photo by Matthew Henry from Burst


“The Records have been destroyed, lost or damaged!” It is an all too familiar statement and a problem that all of us, as family historians, will come across at some stage in our research.

If you are lucky and your ancestors happen to be wealthy, then there is a more likely chance that they have left a paper trail elsewhere that you could follow. However, as is the case with most of us, if your ancestors were poor it is still possible to find them if you know where to look.

Ask yourself this:

1. What was the cause and extent of the damage?

For example, if it was a fire how large was it? Did it consume the whole building and therefore all records, was it smaller and only consumed part of, or minimal records? Were any of the records able to be salvaged? It may not be as bad as what you have been led to believe.

2. Is there a likelihood that there were copies kept somewhere else?

Look for the many copies or substitutes that may exist for the various records. Do not despair as you are looking for the information that the record contains, not the record itself.

Copies of Death, Birth or Marriage records may also exist in the home, church or courthouse.

If it is a substitute document, it will contain the same or similar information as the record you’re searching for, but was created for another reason or purpose. Some possible examples of substitute documents include wills, land deeds, tax records, court documentation, church/parish records or even newspapers.

3. Did my Ancestors live near a border or another town?

If this was the case then you may be able to find records of them in the neighbouring county, parish or town. This can be more common than you would think.

After trying these suggestions if you are still having difficulty please see the video by Dave Obee for Genealogy Gem 10 Top Tips for How to Bust Through Your Genealogy Brick Wall which has further tips on how to move forward

If you can think of any other way not mentioned here to find lost or damaged records, please let me know.

Happy Hunting!


The Records have been destroyed, lost or damaged!