Roots pt 4: Types of Records

As I wrap up from BHM genealogy tips, I want to give a brief overview of records. That's most of the work combing over documents to fill in the missing pieces. You can help yourself out greatly by knowing what type of records you're looking for. This is a brief overview of types of documents and what information they can provide. 

Census Records: 

My favorite type of records, census records have information such as neighbors, age of person, birth year, birthplace, ethnicity, disability, occupation, household members, parent's birthplaces. The questions have varied by year and if you can find the records, they can provide a good overview of someone's history and give you a good starting point. 

In my experience, the main drawback of Census records, is that they are often subject to human error. I have encountered numerous issue with name spellings and alarming disparities in information per census record (for instance one family member is recorded with a 10 year age difference!) As with all sources, you should be cautious and due your research to make sure these records reinforce (at least key points of) information that you have. 

Military Records:

In my limited experience military records are straightforward. They usually have the name of the individual enlisted, their physical condition (height, weight, eye color), and immediate contact person/reference. I do not have a lot of experience with military records, but they can be a great way of tracking someone's location, military training camp, and served time. Military records come in different types including discharge, burial, draft, etc.

Birth, Death, and Marriage Records:

Birth and death records can be difficult to come by depending on the region, gender of subject, and year. They can be great resources, usually listing, parents, ethnicity, physical address, relatives or friends (marriage and death records). Informants who fill out death records can also be a good source of information. If you don't recognize the name, they could be relatives by marriage, close friends, or lifelong neighbors. 

I have had considerable trouble finding death records for the women in my family. I assume it has something to do with property ownership and the “need” for male records to be officially documented. Death records can be additionally invaluable for tracking family medical history. Keeping an eye out for trends in how your relatives passed can allow you to take precautions and keep yourself healthy!


If you've come this far, thank you. I hope you've found my little snippets of information useful to get you interested or started on your journey. I'm open to comments or questions and will be sharing more, especially as I venture out and travel to places to do hands-on research!


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