Like me, you may have a great-grandparent who seemingly went “missing” from records, family stories about a long-departed relative’s battle with mental illness, or an adopted ancestor. Or, like an increasing number of historians and genealogists across the globe, you may be interested in the stories of historically marginalized, underrepresented, and under-researched communities and individuals. The experiences of our relatives and the complexities of their lives should encourage us, as genealogists, to look at institutional records for the answers.
In this article, we will discuss the different types of residential institutions and the records that they created as well as various resources that will help jump-start your research into relatives that resided in institutions.
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