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Back to abt 1850, Census records in the US are very good. Usually they give enough info to know where to look for local records. From there church and probate records can often tie it down. But local writeups, newspaper clippings, and even local histories can be great sources. Sometimes even funeral home records.

BEfore 1850 census can still help but you only get names of heads of household. You depend more on local records.

Pre 1800, church records are published in many areas in the East, but it gets more difficult. Hit or miss as to whether your family names are recorded and have survived. Land records can be reliable but relationships are more difficult.

And don't forget to check for Civil War pension records. Files can be extensive including marriage records and names of children. Where they lived since the war and while collecting pension checks.
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