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Census Records, Probate Records, Obituaries and Death Certificates can help you Discover your Family Heritage

When trying to discover who is related as a family unit it can be hard to decipher who is an immediate relative, especially when using a census record from earlier times that did not list relationships. In earlier times, people endured many hardships that lowered their life expectancy due to the demands put on them. Men had physical labor jobs like farming and building houses which were back breaking manual labor positions with little to no machines or automated tools that are available today. Everyone endured harder living conditions with no air conditioners, heaters, drafty houses, no running water, electric stoves, or microwave ovens. Females also endured the hardship of having many children with no fancy hospitals to help with difficult births. Unintentional accidents or injuries, sickness, war, divorce, and diseases all contribute to the difficulties in trying to create a solid heritage.

Keeping this information in the back of your mind when trying to find documents that will substantiate your heritage will definitely help if you keep an open mind when looking at heritage documents that do not convey the data you think it should. When looking at sources, be sure to take into consideration all possible reasons before discounting anything you find.

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Look for Sources to Discover your Family Heritage

How do you overcome the obstacles that life handed our relatives and seek out the right heritage information? Analyze your documents; keep notes for each person and each piece of data found. Building a case for identity is time consuming. Weighing all the possible reasons as to why the heritage data is correct can be a daunting task. Using several types of documents, instead of only relying on census records is necessary to build a solid family history. You get a better picture of a relative and their life when you search for records that help verify life events and ancestry stories. Click on the link to help you find documents that contain event information you are seeking to help with your family heritage research.

Consider the value of finding, adding, using, and evaluating the heritage data found in: a probate document, obituaries, and death certificates. They can reveal several important ancestry stories that cannot be found in census records alone.

Begin your Ancestry with Census Records

Finding and using census records, is a good starting point for building your ancestry, but they should not be the only sources you use in your research. When analyzing any document and the data found within, keep in mind that it may reveal family heritage facts that may or may not be accurate and may contain heritage data that contradicts known heritage. By paying attention to the fact that people that were living in the same household from 1850 to 1870, the census records did not list relationships. By looking through 54 census records that were from 1850 to 1870 of a family nucleus of grandparents, parents, children and relatives, we discovered that 15 children were found living with multiple parents or guardians, due to: divorce, parental death, or were farmed out to live with relatives for various reasons. We had to use various sources to confirm this information. If we just used census records, we would not have accurate family data. Even after 1870, be cautious as to how you list children. Just because it lists son or daughter, it does not mean that the husband and wife are both the biological parents.

Probate Records Reveal Family Heritage

Since most probate records are created when a person is advanced in years and after their children are usually raised, one benefit of finding a probate, is that a female ancestor will be listed by her married name (if she was married) and might list her husband and / or children. Wills and probate documents can help confirm who your female ancestors married, which can be helpful when you can’t find a marriage certificate. From one lucky probate, we were able to confirm 47 ancestors and three generations of relatives. Not only did it provide names, it provided an insight to the status of the family by what was listed in the source. That is a treasure trove of family heritage that was found and now shared with others.

Obituaries Identify more than Family

Newspapers are a wealth of heritage data and many can be found online. One of the best things a genealogist can find in a newspaper is an obituary. They provide family names and places, which can help verify who your ancestors are. Many times obituaries will list the person’s parents and siblings; their spouse (if married), and children both living and deceased. Sometimes they list grandchildren by name or by count, giving clues to more family heritage.

Death Certificates Can Provide Leads to more Ancestors

Locating a copy of an original death certificate is a wonderful addition to anyone’s heritage. It is a document that is typically filled out by a close family member, therefore the information in the document can usually be considered pretty reliable. A death certificate reveals a person’s full name and birth and death data. It will usually list the parents, and give the maiden name of their mother which can help further your heritage by conducting research for the mother’s family. The certificate often lists the cemetery of where the deceased relative was buried. If you are lucky enough to be in the area of that ancestor, visit the graveyard. By locating the headstone of your ancestor, pay attention to all the other headstones around them and within the graveyard, you may discover some new family heritage.

Family Heritage Stories

Regardless of any documents found, ancestry is more than just dates and places. It is the time spent with your family and all the things that were done from the time of birth to the time of death. Many genealogists get caught up in just finding “the dates”, or information from one source and move on to the next family member.

Discover all that you can about your family heritage. Your relatives have unique talents, stories, and skills. They may have traveled, been a performer of sorts, taught about life in different ways, or was a philanthropic person, or was the black sheep of the family. Find those treasured stories and add their legacy to your family tree, not just “the dates”.