Ancestors Tree



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Episode Eight
Episode Nine
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Charts and Records


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What records do you have that document your life? You probably have a birth or wedding certificate, graduation diploma, tax records, a driver's license and other documents. You'll be looking for the same kinds of records to document the lives of your ancestors. They were born, went to school, worked, got married, bought land, paid taxes, and served in the military. Many of them immigrated to this country, creating immigration and naturalization documents. In the fourth episode, you'll see how your ancestors come alive through the paper trail they left behind.



  • Remember that records are created because of important life events.
  • Look for two kinds of records:
    -- original (primary) records created by eyewitnesses at the time an event occurs
    -- compiled (secondary) records created by genealogists and historians, sometimes many years after an event has occurred
  • Check compiled records first, because someone may have already done much of the research you are trying to do.
  • When using compiled records, try to verify the information you find there by then obtaining the original records.


Suggested Activities

Look at your pedigree chart and make a list of the records you need to verify the information you have gathered. You probably have some blank spots on your chart; think about what kinds of records you need to help you fill in those blanks. Begin with your own family and local resources. Call relatives to find out if anyone has already compiled a partial or complete family history that might contain record(s) you are looking for. Check with local libraries, historical societies and genealogical societies to see if local or family histories are on file there.

To obtain a free pamphlet about how to access vital records (i.e. birth, marriage, and death certificates), contact the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and request Publication No. (PHS) 82-1142.

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