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There are many genealogical resources available on the Internet. Such resources can make the task of tracing your roots easier, considerably reducing the amount of time and effort you expend in tracing your family’s history. You may wonder, however, how genealogy resources come to posses such valuable information. Though there are many places to look for information, census records are high on the list of sources used by genealogy resources.
A census is a count or list of individuals populating a particular area. Census information includes such vital information as the names, ages, genders, and racial backgrounds of the area’s occupants. Other vital information is included as well. In the United States, a census is taken every ten years. Many genealogy resources obtain a good deal of information from census records.
In addition to census records, many genealogy resources obtain information from agencies responsible for the maintenance of vital records. In the United States, for example, an individual can obtain birth, death, marriage, and divorce records from the Bureau of Vital Statistics of the state in question. Such records provide an objective look at important personal moments in the lives of our ancestors. Vital records are important not only for chronicling events, but also for fact-checking and recognizing your relative among other people with the same name. Land, court, and probate records are good sources of information as well.
Some genealogy resources also provide information obtained from obituaries. In fact, some top genealogical research websites provide collections of obituaries from hundreds of different newspapers. Keep in mind, however, that even the most comprehensive resource may not be capable of providing generations worth of obituaries. Many offer obituary collections that are limited to a specific time period.
Historical newspapers are also often used by genealogical resources. Historical newspapers can provide important clues about past event, dates, and individuals. For example, historical newspapers often contain birth and marriage announcements, as well as obituaries and legal notices. Sometimes, historical newspapers contain details that are difficult to find in public records.
Many genealogy resources also obtain information from immigration records. For example, passenger lists can provide names, ages, and occupation information, as well as details about the passenger’s place of origin, destination, and travel dates. Naturalization records can provide much of the same information, as well as birth date and place details, the last foreign address of the individual, the location of the naturalization court, and the date the oath of allegiance was taken. A physical description may be included as well.
Military records are another important source of information for genealogy resources. From draft lists and casualty records to rosters and service data, military information can provide valuable insight into the lives of our ancestors. Some military records may even include information about the nearest relative of the individual you are researching.
Other sources of genealogy information include directories and member lists. Such resources may include phone, business, and alumni directories. Member lists for popular groups and organizations may be used as well.
Besides official sources, many genealogy resources obtain information from other researchers who choose to share information they’ve obtained. Some genealogy services provide this data in searchable databases. Thanks to such databases, individuals are often able to find chunks of family details or missing links to ancestral trees, without a lot of intensive research.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the primary sources of information for genealogy research?
Genealogy resources primarily gather information from vital records such as birth, marriage, and death certificates, which are official government documents. Census data, which is collected every ten years in many countries, provides household compositions and locations. Other sources include immigration and naturalization records, military records, and church records, which can offer baptism, marriage, and burial details. Historical newspapers can also be invaluable for obituaries, announcements, and local news that may mention ancestors.
How reliable are online genealogy databases?
Online genealogy databases vary in reliability, but many are highly reputable and offer accurate information. These databases often source data from original records and provide digital copies of the documents for verification. For instance, Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org are known for their extensive collections and partnerships with archives and libraries. However, user-contributed information may require additional verification. It's always recommended to cross-reference data with original records when possible.
Can genealogy resources include information about living individuals?
Genealogy resources can include information about living individuals, but there are privacy concerns and legal restrictions on accessing recent records. For example, recent census data is typically sealed for 72 years in the United States to protect individual privacy. However, public records like phone directories, property records, and some court documents may be accessible. It's important to respect privacy laws and ethical considerations when researching living relatives.
Are there any free genealogy resources available to the public?
Yes, there are several free genealogy resources available. FamilySearch.org, operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, offers free access to a vast collection of records, including census, birth, marriage, death, and military records. Additionally, the USGenWeb Project provides free genealogy websites for every county and state in the United States, which include transcriptions of data and tips for researchers. Local libraries and historical societies may also offer free access to genealogy resources.
How can I ensure the accuracy of my genealogical research?
To ensure the accuracy of genealogical research, always start with what you know and work backward, verifying each fact with multiple sources when possible. Obtain original records or digital images of them, and evaluate the information critically, considering the context and potential biases of the time. Collaborate with other researchers, join genealogy forums, and consider professional assistance if needed. Document your sources meticulously, so others can follow your research trail and verify findings.