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Discover your Ancestry through Genealogy Documents

Life Events - Birth, Marriages and Death

Part of your search will include finding and recording life events. There are many books, official government papers, and microfilms, etc. that can help validate family ancestry . Genealogy is more than just dates and places. A well researched and documented family tree shows the care that was taken to build an accurate history.

It is important to use a variety of fact supported genealogy data. More importantly, don’t rely solely on indexes or census records to build a genealogy tree . Using recorded wills is one of the best family linking tools a genealogists can use. They are hand written or dictated by the ancestor and usually reveal life details that can be found in traditional government records. The statements in a will can help reveal the way a relative lived and their status while alive. A will can often produce facts to help research a female child if it has their married name.

Record Enough Information So You Can Find The Document Again

Writing down where you found a historical source is the first thing you should do to easily find the document again, this is known as Source Citation. On more than one occasion, you will need to look up or direct someone to do the same research. A citation is a written way of identifying the resource. The example below shows who, what, when, and where the reference can be found and used again.

An example: James Reece, Probate Records, July Term 1895; citing pages 304 and 305, probate court (original papers), Searcy County, Arkansas; photocopy from Family History Center , Microfilm #1031126, Item #1 : 2008

Begin your Genealogy Search for Documents

Identifying the data and how valid it is, is a combination of who created the document, who gave the statements, and what is contained within the statements.

Inevitable during your genealogy search , you will find sources that contain contradicting family knowledge; or at least what was thought to be true. This is due to not knowing who actually gave the information as well as the person who recorded the data in the first place. For example a census could have been filled out by someone who didn't bother to ask the spelling of the person's name; the info could have been given by a neighbor or the eldest child in the house, who may not have stated the facts correctly.

All genealogy search documents are created by an informant who may have intentionally or unintentionally provided false or misleading details, which adds complexity to a genealogy search. Some examples might be an under-aged boy and girl who wanted to get married, or a relative who lied about his age to join the military. A person who is distressed may not be able to accurately recall information. Researchers need to evaluate sources independently and resolve conflicting evidence.

begin your genealogy search

When Was The Information Recorded?

The facts that are embedded in records are divided into primary and secondary information. For the knowledge to be considered primary, the information needs to be recorded and witnessed first-hand. Secondary data is recorded after the fact and may be witnessed second hand. An example of (both primary and secondary information) is a death certificate. The birth facts, as well as the mother’s maiden name (if listed), is considered secondary. This is because the event happened in the past and is being recorded by someone who may not have first-hand knowledge of the event. The death date and cause of death would be primary details. Most sources have mixed statements, part primary and part secondary. The information in the documents is where you will find your family history .

Recording the Source

The documents that you find during your genealogy search will either directly or indirectly state the facts you are looking for. An example of "directly states the facts" is a driver’s license. It directly states the day, month and year a person was born. An example of an "indirectly stated facts" document is a census record that shows an individual's age, which refers to the year they were born.

Validate your Family History

Your genealogy search will produce documents that are original and derivative. Derivative documents are indexes, and databases that are hand written or typed from original documents. These documents are subject to interpretation and may contain errors during the recording of the event details. More weight is given to original documents.