The main focus of our genealogical research is records. It’s important to organize records into groups so as to understand how to go about analyzing in an efficient manner. Records are generally divided into two groups: reference tools and genealogical records. Reference tools are further divided into finding aids and background information. Genealogical records are divided into compiled sources and original records. Let’s quickly discuss each category before diving further into record types.
Finding aids generally help us look for two things: the available records to be searched, and people names. These records are usually identified as indexes. They will not contain a lot of information, just enough to help identify whether the record you are looking for might be in an original source. Additionally, there are record types that identify records: bibliographies, lists of records, library catalogs and archive inventories are all considered finding aids. You are encouraged to study institutional directories to see what other repositories of records they might maintain.
There are many types of background aids that help to inform our understanding of the records we are analyzing. These fall into the following subcategories:
Geographic: gazetteers, maps, postal guides
Instructional: handbooks, articles
Historical: histories, encyclopedias, yearbooks
Language: dictionaries, handwriting tools
Cultural: cultural life, ethnology religion
Factual: almanacs, etymologies, heraldry
These are findings from previous researchers and the conclusions they reached regarding people and relationships. These can truly speed up the process of research, however, they should be reviewed for accuracy. There are 2 groups of these types of records: International and local.
International: book length family histories, electronic family trees, etc.
Local: local histories, genealogical dictionaries, biographical sources, periodicals
Our bread and butter. What we are really after whenever possible. These records were usually created in jurisdictions, and were records of activities happening in those areas. There are 9 type of records:
- Personal – diaries, journals, letters, autobiographies
- Vital events – births, marriages, deaths, divorces, vital records, church records, cemeteries, Bible records, funeral homes
- Residency – censuses, tax lists, city directories
- Ownership sources – probate, property
- Occupational – military, business
- Immigration sources – passenger lists, naturalization records
- Civil Action – court, public, notaries, guardianship
- Institutional sources – schools, prisons, orphanages, hospital
- Specific populations – Native Americans, slaves, Jews
Amazon has some books that are fairly comprehensive resources you should have in your library for some of these (disclosure – these are affiliate links):