Many countries took periodic censuses to keep track of various aspects of the population. Where available, these records often include helpful details about your ancestors and their families and allow you to pinpoint their location at a particular point in time.
While the questions in census records vary from place to place, and year to year, you can find information like names of other household members, ages, birthplaces, residence, occupation, immigration and citizenship details, marriage information, military service and more.
Whether appearing as litigants, witnesses, jurors, appointees to office, petition signatories, or in some other role, surprisingly few people have escaped mention in court records at some time during their lives.
The paper trail left behind by these major and trivial legal events can provide incredible clues and insights into the lives and times of our ancestors.
Cemetery records and headstone inscriptions are also sources of birth and death information. The records of this type most commonly found are church burial registers, sextons’ records, cemetery deed and plot registers, burial permit records, grave opening orders, and monument (gravestone) inscriptions.
Such records usually supplement standard sources of genealogical information, but sometimes they represent the only information that can be found pertaining to the birth and death of an ancestor. Using these records effectively requires specific knowledge of their content, availability, and location.
Most Church records predate civil records and therefore record vital events, providing birth, marriage, and death details that might otherwise be lost.
Aside from supplying names and dates, church records may show you associations between people and portray a family’s position in the community. In addition, entries of a personal nature are not uncommon, and these can provide you with a glimpse into an ancestor’s identity or behaviors.
Family Bibles are invaluable research tools. Despite the fact that the dates may not be guaranteed, Family Bibles are a tangible link with past generations.
Knowing the immigrant’s birthplace or last place of residence before emigrating is essential to finding more information in the native land. Yet, unless the ancestors arrived relatively recently in the United States, family origins may have been forgotten.
Because most foreign records are kept at the town level, discovering the name of a native town, county, or parish is an important goal. Without that information, it is impossible to know where to conduct research in the country of origin.
Most Americans owned at least some land prior to the twentieth century, making individual land records a treasure trove for genealogists.
Land records provide two types of important evidence for the genealogist. First, they often state kinship ties, especially when a group of heirs jointly sells some inherited land. Second, they place individuals in a specific time and place, allowing the researcher to sort people and families into neighborhoods and closely related groups.
Probate records can be any kind of document used in an individuals’ estate settlement in court. The amount of documents and their contents can differ depending on the time period. If here is a large amount of property to settle, then multiple jurisdictions may carry records. These records are rarely found together in one place.
Vital records, as their name suggests, are connected with central life events: birth, marriage, and death.
These records are prime sources of genealogical information, but, unfortunately, official vital records (those maintained by county and state governments), are available only for relatively recent time periods.
Marriage records, the oldest of the vital records, will be considered first. The more recent records of birth and death will follow.