Saturday, May 22, 2010

Lesson 2: Gathering Records for your Genealogy

What are the types of records you will need to collect to document the facts in your family tree?

To document your own life you will want to obtain a copy of your birth certificate.  If you were born in the United States you should be able to obtain a copy of your birth certificate from the bureau of vital statistics of the state in which you were born.  How do you find out where to write for your birth certificate?  The Center for Disease Control website provides the agency and address along with instructions for obtaining birth and death certificates as well as marriage and divorce records:
These records are known as Vital Records and are issued by government agencies and they record milestone life events.  

Even though you may have a vital record to document births, deaths, marriages and divorces you will need to analyze the information for the quality of information.  For example:  a death certificate will contain the person’s name, date, place and cause of death and is considered to be the official record for the death and is considered to be a primary source for the death information.  In addition, the death certificate may contain information about the person’s parents, date and place of birth, but the death certificate is considered to be a secondary source for the birth information.

Other records that can be used to document birth, marriage & death information are:

  • Church records documenting baptisms or christenings
  • Family Bible records
  • Newspaper clippings
  • Baby books
  • Family letters
  • Wedding albums
  • Funeral cards
  • Passports and naturalization papers

Don’t overlook the possibility that some of your relatives have already recorded some of the family history already.  Also, many of the counties have published local histories that often include biographical sketches that can be used to provide information for your genealogy.

Less common sources:
Besides these documents there are other less common places to look for information such as:

  • Engraved silverware or jewelry
  • Embroidered samplers
  • Quilts
  • Plaques
  • Personalized souvenirs
  • Heirlooms
  • Pictures
  • Cemetery markers
  • Don’t forget to look inside the picture frames to see if anyone may have put a note with information in it about the people.  
  • There may be old letters, land deeds, marriage certificates, and other information about your family stored away in the attic, suitcases, boxes, drawers, basements or other places where things are stored.
  • Don’t forget to interview your elderly relatives too.  They may be able to provide you with helpful clues and information that will lead you to the records to document your family’s history.  
  • Attend family reunions and other family gatherings; take pictures and a notebook to record notes from conversations with your relatives.  
Once you have collected this basic information for yourself, your parents and grandparents you will need to spend some time recording and organizing the information.

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