Where do Genealogy Resources get Their Information?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 04 October 2019
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There are many genealogical resources available on the Internet. Such resources can make the task of tracing your roots easier, considerably reducing the amount of time and effort you expend in tracing your family’s history. You may wonder, however, how genealogy resources come to posses such valuable information. Though there are many places to look for information, census records are high on the list of sources used by genealogy resources.

A census is a count or list of individuals populating a particular area. Census information includes such vital information as the names, ages, genders, and racial backgrounds of the area’s occupants. Other vital information is included as well. In the United States, a census is taken every ten years. Many genealogy resources obtain a good deal of information from census records.

In addition to census records, many genealogy resources obtain information from agencies responsible for the maintenance of vital records. In the United States, for example, an individual can obtain birth, death, marriage, and divorce records from the Bureau of Vital Statistics of the state in question. Such records provide an objective look at important personal moments in the lives of our ancestors. Vital records are important not only for chronicling events, but also for fact-checking and recognizing your relative among other people with the same name. Land, court, and probate records are good sources of information as well.


Some genealogy resources also provide information obtained from obituaries. In fact, some top genealogical research websites provide collections of obituaries from hundreds of different newspapers. Keep in mind, however, that even the most comprehensive resource may not be capable of providing generations worth of obituaries. Many offer obituary collections that are limited to a specific time period.

Historical newspapers are also often used by genealogical resources. Historical newspapers can provide important clues about past event, dates, and individuals. For example, historical newspapers often contain birth and marriage announcements, as well as obituaries and legal notices. Sometimes, historical newspapers contain details that are difficult to find in public records.

Many genealogy resources also obtain information from immigration records. For example, passenger lists can provide names, ages, and occupation information, as well as details about the passenger’s place of origin, destination, and travel dates. Naturalization records can provide much of the same information, as well as birth date and place details, the last foreign address of the individual, the location of the naturalization court, and the date the oath of allegiance was taken. A physical description may be included as well.

Military records are another important source of information for genealogy resources. From draft lists and casualty records to rosters and service data, military information can provide valuable insight into the lives of our ancestors. Some military records may even include information about the nearest relative of the individual you are researching.

Other sources of genealogy information include directories and member lists. Such resources may include phone, business, and alumni directories. Member lists for popular groups and organizations may be used as well.

Besides official sources, many genealogy resources obtain information from other researchers who choose to share information they’ve obtained. Some genealogy services provide this data in searchable databases. Thanks to such databases, individuals are often able to find chunks of family details or missing links to ancestral trees, without a lot of intensive research.


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