When doing your family history research you look for primary vital records. Those are the birth certificates, marriage licenses, divorce papers and death certificates official filled out at the time of each event by a government agency. These are also known as primary sources, the best for getting accurate information of names, places and dates.
Keep in mind they are not 100% accurate, someone can provide incorrect information or a clerk can put the name or date down wrong by mistake. One example, on my birth certificate, the first and oldest birth child to my mother, it has that there was one live birth prior to mine. In later years I have questions relatives, including my mother, who were all there and they confirm, it was a clerk’s error, that there was no birth or carrying of a baby by my mother prior to my birth. So just be aware, mistakes can be made.
However, then there is the problem if no vital records or a couple such vital records can not be located. What do you do?
For genealogists, they try to use a Genealogical Standard of Proof. First, make sure all possible sources for locating that vital birth-marriage or death records has been attempted. Next any fairly credible source is always cited (information of that source – name, date, place). If by chance, there might be some conflict of other dates, names, etc., each of those conflicts with any contradictory evidence is proved incorrect or proved correct.
The Genealogical Standard of Proof is really a process to validate lesser primary resources, such as a journal, letters, documents dated years after an event or even family Bible records. My being careful from the very beginning of your research even with use of primary resources, it helps you from duplicated your work years later. Having this proof even helps if new information on an ancestor surfaces years later.
For those individuals who research and write about historical figures, this is exactly what they must do.
Even when there are documents such as an obituary, remember it written by a relative or friend of the decease and can be missing details. It might state there were four surviving children, but no names are provided. All you have is there were at least four children, some could have died earlier. To help provide additional details, you use all Federal and State censuses available which will list household family members. Check if possible what is with the funeral home or cemetery records for the decease.
As you go through the process for Genealogical Standard of Proof always write down you sources, along with date, published location, full name of the source and any volume or page numbers. Even if it was only a thread of information, you just might to look it up again and it saves time if you have the source ready.
An often overlooked official primary source in America are the World War I Draft Registration forms. I have found those to have the least amount of errors, mostly because the person has to fill it out, sign it in front of a governmental official and it was during a time of war.
Research and complete research does take time and patience. You can develop these skills with experience and it does become very rewarding when you do uncover the full family history.
Photos: 1911 UK census and written journals.
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