By now you should have used up all the family records you have at hand. Remember to check for photographic albums, engraved jewelry and silverware, insurance papers, Social Security papers, employment records, memory books, inscriptions in gift books and the like.
It is time to move from private to public records. What makes a record "public" is regulated by state law. Each state may vary somewhat but a public record can be defined as any written or printed book, document or paper, map or plan which is the property of the state or of any county or municipality or part thereof, and in or on which any officer or employee of the state, or of a county or municipality, has received or is required to receive for filing or recording. The courthouse is the center of public records and offers the location of these records often needed for genealogical research. The county records include criminal court records, civil court records (foreclosures, divorces, register of probate), wills and letters of administration, land records (deeds, mortgages, powers of attorney), vital records such as marriage licenses, marriage records, and certain miscellaneous records such as tax rolls, register of voters, and Coroner's files. Wow, enough already. Beware, it is only the beginning.