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If you locate the event in an index, it will give you a reference to the book and page. If you can supply this information with your application, the fee for obtaining a copy of the certificate is less. The indexes are available on microfiche and microfilm through Family History Centers. Some of the larger centers have the films permanently while others may have to order them individually from Salt Lake City.

If your local center does not have the indexes and you have to search over several years, it may be expensive to order so many film or fiche. In this case, you may want to hire a researcher, either in the U. The actual certificate must be ordered from England. If you know the exact date and place of the event, you can contact the General Register Office in Southport directly via mail or e-mail. If you know the district, you can contact the local registry office as the certificate is less expensive there.

Learn how to order a certificate. It houses Civil Registration and census records that used to be kept at St. In conjunction with the vital records, which you would want for direct ancestors, you can fill out family groups much less expensively using the census, which is available every ten years from through All census returns are available from the Family History Library, but unfortunately, there are few indexes to the census so you need to have a pretty good idea of where people lived.

Birth, marriage, and death certificates can help you determine location, especially if the name is not a common one. The census lists everyone in the household by name, sex, and occupation. Ages are rounded down to the last multiple of 5 -- i. The place of birth is either Y or N meaning "Yes, born in this county" or "No, not born in this county.

Later returns give names, exact ages, occupations, relationships to the head of the household, and parishes and counties of birth. If you are searching a fairly large city, you might be able to find the person in a city directory first. That will give you an address, which is helpful because there are several indexes for large cities which tell you where in the census you can find the records from each street. Using the names and ages found in the census and on civil registration certificates, you can move back before to the parish records which extend back another years to Naturally, not all parishes have kept their records intact for this period of time, but many parishes go back to the s and some to the s.

Again, the English researcher is fortunate because the Family History Library has filmed the majority of parish records in England and they are available on microfilm. Where it may take four films to cover one year of index in the civil registration, one film of parish records can cover years and give you many new family names -- providing the family stayed in one place. Parishes corresponded quite closely to the villages of the same name. A rural parish may include a village and two or three hamlets. In larger cities there will be several churches so you will need to determine in which parish your family lived.

There are many books showing the parishes of Great Britain, so check your local genealogy library. The information in the records varies widely. A baptism, or burial record especially, may only give the name. More helpful parish records will give the father's name on a baptism and sometimes even the mother's name is listed. It is extremely rare to ever find a mother's maiden name listed on a baptism record. Burial records may give age or, especially for children, will note the father's name. Marriage records may only contain the name of the bride and groom, but often will indicate the parish.

Since the parish records, especially the early ones, were written on a blank sheet rather than a form, a comment may occasionally be added. I found the following comment about my ancestor in one record: "The remainder of names given at baptisms together with ye names of Persons buried and married this year and the following were lost as I am informed by one Francis Fludd then churchwarden. Flood do with all those records?!

Keep in mind that the dates are for baptism and burial, not birth and death, but children were traditionally baptized a few days after their birth. Parish records are, for the most part, from the Church of England. However, rules required that Catholics register the baptisms and marriages in a Church of England and that they be buried by the Church of England.

Many of these requirements were often ignored, but Catholics would often marry in the Catholic Church as well as the Church of England. You will have to look in other specialized sources for these records. It was also required that banns be read in the parishes of both the bride and groom for three weeks prior to their marriage. After , when marriage laws were made stricter, the banns were recorded in a separate book or the parish record. These banns books may also be available. If the couple did not marry in the parish of the bride or groom, they had to obtain a special license.

Licenses are found in many different locations, but may have interesting additional information if they can be located. Many parishes have been indexed by bride and groom and are arranged by county. If you locate your ancestors, it will direct you to the correct parish. You may also find "parish chest records" listed in the Family History Catalog under the parish you are searching.

These included poor taxes, bastardy bonds, settlement and removal records, apprenticeship records, churchwarden records and other events relating to the church and village. The parish was responsible for taking care of the poor. Since this could be a large expense, they did not accept people on welfare lightly. If the family was not originally from the parish, the church authorities might send them back to their original parish to avoid having to support them. If a girl had an illegitimate child she and the child might become dependent on the parish.

Genealogists use oral interviews, historical records, genetic analysis, and other records to obtain information about a family and to demonstrate kinship and pedigrees of its members. The results are often displayed in charts or written as narratives. Although generally used interchangeably, the traditional definition of "genealogy" begins with a person who is usually deceased and traces his or her descendants forward in time, whereas, "family history" begins with a person who is usually living and traces his or her ancestors.

The pursuit of family history and origins tends to be shaped by several motives, including the desire to carve out a place for one's family in the larger historical picture, a sense of responsibility to preserve the past for future generations, and self-satisfaction in accurate storytelling.

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Amateur genealogists typically pursue their own ancestry and that of their spouses. Professional genealogists may also conduct research for others, publish books on genealogical methods, teach, or produce their own databases. They may work for companies that provide software or produce materials of use to other professionals and to amateurs. Both try to understand not just where and when people lived, but also their lifestyles, biographies, and motivations.

This often requires—or leads to—knowledge of antiquated laws, old political boundaries, migration trends, and historical socioeconomic or religious conditions. Genealogists sometimes specialize in a particular group, e. Bloodlines of Salem is an example of a specialized family-history group. It welcomes members who can prove descent from a participant of the Salem Witch Trials or who simply choose to support the group.

Genealogists and family historians often join family history societies , where novices can learn from more experienced researchers. Such societies generally serve a specific geographical area. Their members may also index records to make them more accessible, and engage in advocacy and other efforts to preserve public records and cemeteries. Some schools engage students in such projects as a means to reinforce lessons regarding immigration and history. The terms "genealogy" and "family history" are often used synonymously, but some offer a slight difference in definition. The Society of Genealogists , while also using the terms interchangeably, describes genealogy as the "establishment of a Pedigree by extracting evidence, from valid sources, of how one generation is connected to the next" and family history as "a biographical study of a genealogically proven family and of the community and country in which they lived".

Private individuals do genealogy out of curiosity about their heritage. This curiosity can be particularly strong among those whose family histories were lost or unknown due to, for example, adoption or separation from family through divorce, death, or other situations.

There is a growing interest in family history in the media as a result of advertising and television shows sponsored by large genealogy companies such as Ancestry. This coupled with easier access to online records and the affordability of DNA tests has both inspired curiosity and allowed those who are curious to easily start investigating their ancestry.

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In communitarian societies, one's identity is defined as much by one's kin network as by individual achievement, and the question "Who are you? Family history plays a part in the practice of some religious belief systems. For example, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints LDS Church has a doctrine of baptism for the dead , which necessitates that members of that faith engage in family history research. In East Asian countries that were historically shaped by Confucianism , many people follow a practice of ancestor worship as well as genealogical record-keeping.

Ancestor's names are inscribed on tablets and placed in shrines, where rituals are performed. Genealogies are also recorded in genealogy books. This practice is rooted in the belief that respect for one's family is a foundation for a healthy society. Royal families , both historically and in modern times, keep records of their genealogies in order to establish their right to rule and determine who will be the next sovereign. For centuries in various cultures, ones genealogy has been a source of political and social status. Some countries and indigenous tribes allow individuals to obtain citizenship based on their genealogy.

In Ireland , for example, an individual can become a citizen if one of their grandparents was born in Ireland, even if the individual or their parents were not born there. In societies such as Australia or the United States, there was by the 20th century growing pride in the pioneers and nation-builders.

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Establishing descent from these was, and is, important to lineage societies such as the Daughters of the American Revolution and The Mayflower Society. Some family histories even emphasize links to celebrity criminals, such as the bushranger Ned Kelly in Australia. Lawyers involved in probate cases do genealogy to locate heirs of property.

Detectives may perform genealogical research using DNA evidence to identify victims of homicides or perpetrators of crimes. Historians and geneticists may do genealogical research to gain a greater understanding of specific topics in their respective fields. Professional genealogists conduct paid genealogical research for any of the above individuals. They also publish their research in peer-reviewed journals.

Historically, in Western societies the focus of genealogy was on the kinship and descent of rulers and nobles, often arguing or demonstrating the legitimacy of claims to wealth and power. The term often overlapped with heraldry , in which the ancestry of royalty was reflected in their coats of arms. Modern scholars consider many claimed noble ancestries to be fabrications, such as the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle that traced the ancestry of several English kings to the god Woden. The family tree of Confucius has been maintained for over 2, years and is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest extant family tree.

In modern times, genealogy became more widespread, with commoners as well as nobility researching and maintaining their family trees. His account of his family's descent from the African tribesman Kunta Kinte inspired many others to study their own lines. With the advent of the Internet , the number of resources readily accessible to genealogists has vastly increased, resulting in an explosion of interest in the topic. In India, Charans are the Bards who traditionally keep the written genealogy records of various castes. Genealogical research in the United States was first systematized in the early 19th century, especially by John Farmer — He corresponded with other antiquarians in New England, where antiquarianism and genealogy were well established, and became a coordinator, booster, and contributor to the growing movement.

In the s, he and fellow antiquarians began to produce genealogical and antiquarian tracts in earnest, slowly gaining a devoted audience among the American people. The department's research facility, the Family History Library , which Utah. Latter-day Saints believe that this fulfilled a biblical prophecy stating that the prophet Elijah would return to "turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers. The American Society of Genealogists is the scholarly honorary society of the U.

Colket, Jr. ASG publishes The Genealogist , a scholarly journal of genealogical research semi-annually since Fellow of the American Society of Genealogists , who bear the post-nominal acronym FASG, have written some of the most notable genealogical materials of the last half-century. Genealogical research is a complex process that uses historical records and sometimes genetic analysis to demonstrate kinship. Reliable conclusions are based on the quality of sources, ideally original records, the information within those sources, ideally primary or firsthand information, and the evidence that can be drawn, directly or indirectly, from that information.

In many instances, genealogists must skillfully assemble indirect or circumstantial evidence to build a case for identity and kinship. All evidence and conclusions, together with the documentation that supports them, is then assembled to create a cohesive genealogy or family history. Genealogists begin their research by collecting family documents and stories. This creates a foundation for documentary research , which involves examining and evaluating historical records for evidence about ancestors and other relatives, their kinship ties, and the events that occurred in their lives.

As a rule, genealogists begin with the present and work backward in time. Historical, social, and family context is essential to achieving correct identification of individuals and relationships. Source citation is also important when conducting genealogical research. Formerly handwritten, these can now be generated by genealogical software. Because a person's DNA contains information that has been passed down relatively unchanged from early ancestors, analysis of DNA is sometimes used for genealogical research. Three DNA types are of particular interest: mitochondrial DNA that we all possess and that is passed down with only minor mutations through the matrilineal direct female line; the Y-chromosome , present only in males, which is passed down with only minor mutations through the patrilineal direct male line; and the Autosomal DNA , which is found in the 22 non-gender specific chromosomes autosomes inherited from both parents, which can uncover relatives from any branch of the family.

A genealogical DNA test allows two individuals to find the probability that they are, or are not, related within an estimated number of generations. Individual genetic test results are collected in databases to match people descended from a relatively recent common ancestor. See, for example, the Molecular Genealogy Research Project. These tests are limited to either the patrilineal or the matrilineal line.

Most genealogy software programs can export information about persons and their relationships in a standardized format called GEDCOM. In that format it can be shared with other genealogists, added to databases, or converted into family web sites. Social networking service SNS websites allow genealogists to share data and build their family trees online.

Members can upload their family trees and contact other family historians to fill in gaps in their research. In addition to the SNS websites, there are other resources that encourage genealogists to connect and share information such as rootsweb. Volunteer efforts figure prominently in genealogy. On the informal side are the many popular and useful message boards such as Rootschat and mailing lists on particular surnames, regions, and other topics. These forums can be used to try to find relatives, request record lookups, obtain research advice, and much more.

Many genealogists participate in loosely organized projects, both online and off. These collaborations take numerous forms. Some projects prepare name indexes for records, such as probate cases, and publish the indexes, either online or off. These indexes can be used as finding aids to locate original records. Other projects transcribe or abstract records. Offering record lookups for particular geographic areas is another common service. Volunteers do record lookups or take photos in their home areas for researchers who are unable to travel.

Those looking for a structured volunteer environment can join one of thousands of genealogical societies worldwide. Most societies have a unique area of focus, such as a particular surname, ethnicity , geographic area, or descendancy from participants in a given historical event. Genealogical societies are almost exclusively staffed by volunteers and may offer a broad range of services, including maintaining libraries for members' use, publishing newsletters, providing research assistance to the public, offering classes or seminars, and organizing record preservation or transcription projects.

Genealogy software is used to collect, store, sort, and display genealogical data. At a minimum, genealogy software accommodates basic information about individuals, including births, marriages, and deaths. Many programs allow for additional biographical information, including occupation, residence, and notes, and most also offer a method for keeping track of the sources for each piece of evidence.

More advanced features include the ability to restrict the information that is shared, usually by removing information about living people out of privacy concerns; the import of sound files; the generation of family history books, web pages and other publications; the ability to handle same-sex marriages and children born out of wedlock; searching the Internet for data; and the provision of research guidance. Programs may be geared toward a specific religion, with fields relevant to that religion, or to specific nationalities or ethnic groups, with source types relevant for those groups.

Online resources involve complex programming and large data bases, such as censuses. Genealogists use a wide variety of records in their research. To effectively conduct genealogical research, it is important to understand how the records were created, what information is included in them, and how and where to access them. To keep track of their citizens, governments began keeping records of persons who were neither royalty nor nobility.

In England and Germany, for example, such record keeping started with parish registers in the 16th century. Major life events, such as births, marriages, and deaths, were often documented with a license, permit, or report. Genealogists locate these records in local, regional or national offices or archives and extract information about family relationships and recreate timelines of persons' lives.

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In China , India and other Asian countries, genealogy books are used to record the names, occupations, and other information about family members, with some books dating back hundreds or even thousands of years. In the eastern Indian state of Bihar , there is a written tradition of genealogical records among Maithil Brahmins and Karna Kayasthas called " Panjis ", dating to the 12th century CE. Even today these records are consulted prior to marriages. In Ireland , genealogical records were recorded by professional families of senchaidh historians until as late as the midth century.

The LDS Church has engaged in large-scale microfilming of records of genealogical value. Its Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, houses over 2 million microfiche and microfilms of genealogically relevant material, which are also available for on-site research at over Family History Centers worldwide. FamilySearch 's website includes many resources for genealogists: a FamilyTree database, historical records, [70] digitized family history books, [71] resources and indexing for African American genealogy such as slave and bank records, [72] and a Family History Research Wiki containing research guidance articles.

Indexing is the process of transcribing parish records, city vital records, and other reports, to a digital database for searching. Volunteers and professionals participate in the indexing process. Since , the microfilm in the FamilySearch granite mountain vault is in the process of being digitally scanned, available online, and eventually indexed.

For example, after the year legal limit for releasing personal information for the United States Census was reached in , genealogical groups cooperated to index the million residents registered in the United States Census. Between and , the FamilySearch indexing effort produced more than 1 billion searchable records. Sometimes genealogical records are destroyed, whether accidentally or on purpose. In order to do thorough research, genealogists keep track of which records have been destroyed so they know when information they need may be missing.

Of particular note for North American genealogy is the United States Census , which was destroyed in a fire in Although fragments survive, most of the census no longer exists. Those looking for genealogical information for families that lived in the United States in must rely on other information to fill that gap.

War is another cause of record destruction. Often records are destroyed due to accident or neglect. Since genealogical records are often kept on paper and stacked in high-density storage, they are prone to fire, mold, insect damage, and eventual disintegration. Sometimes records of genealogical value are deliberately destroyed by governments or organizations because the records are considered to be unimportant or a privacy risk.

Because of this, genealogists often organize efforts to preserve records that are at risk of destruction. FamilySearch has an ongoing program that assesses what useful genealogical records have the most risk of being destroyed, and sends volunteers to digitize such records. FamilySearch has begun digitizing the records and making them available online. In , they began raising funds, which were contribute by genealogists around the United States and matched by Ancestry.

Their goal was achieved and the process of digitization was able to begin.


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The digitized records are available for free online. Genealogists who seek to reconstruct the lives of each ancestor consider all historical information to be "genealogical" information. Traditionally, the basic information needed to ensure correct identification of each person are place names, occupations, family names , first names, and dates. However, modern genealogists greatly expand this list, recognizing the need to place this information in its historical context in order to properly evaluate genealogical evidence and distinguish between same-name individuals.

A great deal of information is available for British ancestry [84] with growing resources for other ethnic groups. Family names are simultaneously one of the most important pieces of genealogical information, and a source of significant confusion for researchers. In many cultures, the name of a person refers to the family to which he or she belongs. This is called the family name , surname , or last name. Patronymics are names that identify an individual based on the father's name.

Many cultures used patronymics before surnames were adopted or came into use. The Dutch in New York, for example, used the patronymic system of names until when the advent of English rule mandated surname usage. Not until in Denmark [89] and in Norway [90] were there laws requiring surnames. The transmission of names across generations, marriages and other relationships, and immigration may cause difficulty in genealogical research. For instance, women in many cultures have routinely used their spouse's surnames. When a woman remarried, she may have changed her name and the names of her children; only her name; or changed no names.

Her birth name maiden name may be reflected in her children's middle names; her own middle name; or dropped entirely. Because official records may reflect many kinds of surname change, without explaining the underlying reason for the change, the correct identification of a person recorded identified with more than one name is challenging.

Immigrants to America often Americanized their names. Surname data may be found in trade directories, census returns, birth, death, and marriage records. Genealogical data regarding given names first names is subject to many of the same problems as are family names and place names. Additionally, the use of nicknames is very common. Middle names provide additional information.

Middle names may be inherited, follow naming customs, or be treated as part of the family name. For instance, in some Latin cultures, both the mother's family name and the father's family name are used by the children. Historically, naming traditions existed in some places and cultures.

Even in areas that tended to use naming conventions, however, they were by no means universal. Families may have used them some of the time, among some of their children, or not at all. A pattern might also be broken to name a newborn after a recently deceased sibling, aunt or uncle.

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Another example is in some areas of Germany, where siblings were given the same first name, often of a favourite saint or local nobility, but different second names by which they were known Rufname. If a child died, the next child of the same gender that was born may have been given the same name. It is not uncommon that a list of a particular couple's children will show one or two names repeated. Personal names have periods of popularity, so it is not uncommon to find many similarly named people in a generation, and even similarly named families; e. Many names may be identified strongly with a particular gender; e.

Others may be ambiguous , e. While the locations of ancestors' residences and life events are core elements of the genealogist's quest, they can often be confusing. Place names may be subject to variant spellings by partially literate scribes. Locations may have identical or very similar names. For example, the village name Brockton occurs six times in the border area between the English counties of Shropshire and Staffordshire.

Shifts in political borders must also be understood. Parish, county, and national borders have frequently been modified. Old records may contain references to farms and villages that have ceased to exist. When working with older records from Poland, where borders and place names have changed frequently in past centuries, a source with maps and sample records such as A Translation Guide to 19th-Century Polish-Language Civil-Registration Documents can be invaluable.

Available sources may include vital records civil or church registration , censuses, and tax assessments. Oral tradition is also an important source, although it must be used with caution. When no source information is available for a location, circumstantial evidence may provide a probable answer based on a person's or a family's place of residence at the time of the event.

Maps and gazetteers are important sources for understanding the places researched. They show the relationship of an area to neighboring communities and may be of help in understanding migration patterns. Family tree mapping using online mapping tools such as Google Earth particularly when used with Historical Map overlays such as those from the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection assist in the process of understanding the significance of geographical locations.

It is wise to exercise extreme caution with dates. Dates are more difficult to recall years after an event, and are more easily mistranscribed than other types of genealogical data. Dates of birth in vital records or civil registrations and in church records at baptism are generally accurate because they were usually recorded near the time of the event. Family Bibles are often a source for dates, but can be written from memory long after the event. When the same ink and handwriting is used for all entries, the dates were probably written at the same time and therefore will be less reliable since the earlier dates were probably recorded well after the event.

The publication date of the Bible also provides a clue about when the dates were recorded since they could not have been recorded at any earlier date. People sometimes reduce their age on marriage, and those under "full age" may increase their age in order to marry or to join the armed forces.

Census returns are notoriously unreliable for ages or for assuming an approximate death date. Ages over 15 in the census in the UK are rounded down to the next lower multiple of five years. Although baptismal dates are often used to approximate birth dates, some families waited years before baptizing children, and adult baptisms are the norm in some religions.

Both birth and marriage dates may have been adjusted to cover for pre-wedding pregnancies. Calendar changes must also be considered. In , England and her American colonies changed from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar. In the same year, the date the new year began was changed. Prior to it was 25 March ; this was changed to 1 January. Many other European countries had already made the calendar changes before England had, sometimes centuries earlier. By there was an day discrepancy between the date in England and the date in other European countries.

For further detail on the changes involved in moving from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar, see: Gregorian calendar. The French Republican Calendar or French Revolutionary Calendar was a calendar proposed during the French Revolution, and used by the French government for about 12 years from late to , and for 18 days in in Paris.

Dates in official records at this time use the revolutionary calendar and need "translating" into the Gregorian calendar for calculating ages etc. There are various websites which do this. Occupational information may be important to understanding an ancestor's life and for distinguishing two people with the same name. A person's occupation may have been related to his or her social status, political interest, and migration pattern. Since skilled trades are often passed from father to son, occupation may also be indirect evidence of a family relationship.

It is important to remember that a person may change occupations, and that titles change over time as well. Some workers no longer fit for their primary trade often took less prestigious jobs later in life, while others moved upwards in prestige. Census returns may contain some embellishment; e.

Names for old or unfamiliar local occupations may cause confusion if poorly legible. For example, an ostler a keeper of horses and a hostler an innkeeper could easily be confused for one another. Likewise, descriptions of such occupations may also be problematic. The perplexing description "ironer of rabbit burrows" may turn out to describe an ironer profession in the Bristol district named Rabbit Burrows.

Several trades have regionally preferred terms. For example, "shoemaker" and "cordwainer" have the same meaning. Finally, many apparently obscure jobs are part of a larger trade community, such as watchmaking, framework knitting or gunmaking. Occupational data may be reported in occupational licenses, tax assessments, membership records of professional organizations, trade directories, census returns, and vital records civil registration. Occupational dictionaries are available to explain many obscure and archaic trades.

Information found in historical or genealogical sources can be unreliable and it is good practice to evaluate all sources with a critical eye. Factors influencing the reliability of genealogical information include: the knowledge of the informant or writer ; the bias and mental state of the informant or write; the passage of time and the potential for copying and compiling errors.

The quality of census data has been of special interest to historians, who have investigated reliability issues. The informant is the individual who provided the recorded information. Genealogists must carefully consider who provided the information and what he or she knew. In many cases the informant is identified in the record itself.

For example, a death certificate usually has two informants: a physician who provides information about the time and cause of death and a family member who provides the birth date, names of parents, etc. When the informant is not identified, one can sometimes deduce information about the identity of the person by careful examination of the source. One should first consider who was alive and nearby when the record was created.

When the informant is also the person recording the information, the handwriting can be compared to other handwriting samples. When a source does not provide clues about the informant, genealogists should treat the source with caution. These sources can be useful if they can be compared with independent sources.


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For example, a census record by itself cannot be given much weight because the informant is unknown. However, when censuses for several years concur on a piece of information that would not likely be guessed by a neighbor, it is likely that the information in these censuses was provided by a family member or other informed person. On the other hand, information in a single census cannot be confirmed by information in an undocumented compiled genealogy since the genealogy may have used the census record as its source and might therefore be dependent on the same misinformed individual.

Even individuals who had knowledge of the fact, sometimes intentionally or unintentionally provided false or misleading information.