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Umbrella project: "working with sources"

The great satirist Ambrose Bierce defined genealogy this way:

An account of one's descent from an ancestor who did not particularly care to trace his own.

So how do we begin to find them?

One of the steps to constructing a genealogy is by compiling records.

Types of records

  • Census Records
  • Military Records
  • Immigration Records (Ship Passenger Lists)
  • Naturalization Records
  • Land Records
  • Baptism , marriage and burial records (Church)
  • Birth, marriage and death records ( Civil Registration)
  • Land & estate records

Evaluating records


Sometimes records are just plain wrong. Some reasons:

  • fictional
  • transcribed incorrectly
  • mistaken
  • Even original records can contain errors

If you can not find what you want

  • Try other variations of the name
  • Try without the first name , this might not have been written down in the original records
  • In some cases (Europe) the firstnames might be written in Latin , for example Patrick is down as Patricius, just be aware that this is possible especially in older Church records.

Do you have any examples from your research?


Records need to be interpreted. A question to ask is, "what was the intent for creation of this record?"

For example, a census is a count of persons in a household. That genealogists use census records is not why we have them.


  1. About Parish Records - Highly Recommend
  2. Wikipedia - Genealogy - Research process
  3. Start Your Genealogy Research from NARA (National Archives and Records Administration)
  4. Ancestors companion website to the PBS series
  5. Genealogy Records & Databases genealogy