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Genealogy Resources by Veritas Prep

Knowing one’s family history can provide a person with valuable information about not only his or her ancestors, but also about themselves. This information can be a source of pride in many families and something to be shared with future generations. While some people pass down stories from generation to generation, others may not be as aware of where they come from. Fortunately, there are many ways in which a person can conduct the necessary research to find the answers that he or she needs. Although this can be time-consuming, the results are often worth the effort. History The interest in one’s familial origins dates back as far as ancient times. Often the primary reason for this was to prove one’s claim to nobility, as rulers often used their origins to stake claims to land, power, and wealth, and to establish themselves above commoners. Greeks also used genealogy as a way of establishing their place in society; however, it was often associated with false claims of being descendants of Greek gods or goddesses. In China, genealogy served a religious purpose as Chinese religions promoted the honoring of one’s ancestors. For some groups of people, such as slaves, family history was passed down by word of mouth as the keeping of written documents was not possible. Research Process Research into a person’s genealogy begins with gathering information. This requires interviewing as many living family members as possible. Family members are invaluable in the knowledge that they possess in the form of stories that have been passed down, memories, records or documents. DNA testing, or genetic analysis, is another potentially useful aspect of the research process. For people interested in researching their DNA, there are a number of companies that offer genetic testing. A person may also order a home kit, in which they swab their own cheek and mail it in for analysis. There are three common DNA tests that are performed. The first is Y-chromosome DNA, which is the DNA that is passed down directly from father to son. Another test is mitochondrial DNA, which is the DNA that is passed to both sons and daughters from the mother. Autosomal DNA is the third type of test that is commonly run. This is the DNA that a person receives from both his or her mother and father. Genetic testing compares a person’s DNA sequence against a database of other samples. This allows the company that performs the test to give the consumer an idea of where his or her ancestors lived and what ethnic group shares a similar DNA sequence. Genealogy software is a part of the process that allows for the collection, sorting and storing of information from a number of different sources. Software may be used as a way to keep track of useful information or for the creation of charts and other databases. The information from certain types of genealogy software allows for the sharing and exporting of information amongst genealogists. Genealogy research also relies heavily on the efforts of volunteers in the form of genealogical societies and even forums and message boards. Volunteers organize libraries of information, transcribe records, host seminars, and publish indexes. Records & Documentation Documentation plays a crucial role in genealogy. They record various events in life, providing researchers with vital information regarding where the individual lived and worked. According to the National Archives, the most common types of records used by genealogists are the census, military, immigration, naturalization, and land records. Vital records also provide a wealth of information about one’s ancestry. Birth certificates reveal the city and state where the ancestor in question was born, what hospital, and the year. Death records are another record that can provide researchers with vital information about their ancestors and potential health issues that may run in the family. From marriage and divorce records, a person can further his or her genealogy research by learning the surnames of female members of the family prior to marriage. Even documentation in the form of diaries can provide a wealth of information. Types of Information When conducting genealogy research, certain types of information are required. This information includes names, dates, and occupations. Names should include the given names, middle names, surnames, and maiden names when applicable, of as many family members as possible, going as far back as possible. Aliases and potential variations in the spelling of these names are also important. In addition to names, the occupations of ancestors contribute to research efforts. It provides information about one’s social standing and how he or she may have lived life. Knowing the occupation of any given relative can also help differentiate between two people of the same name. Dates, when accurately documented, are also important to genealogy. They reflect important events in life and can be found in records and documentation. Sources of Information The credibility and subsequent usefulness of genealogical information hinges on the reliability of the sources that are used. The most reliable information in most cases comes from primary resources. This is the information that is recorded immediately, such as the information found in vital records. The accuracy of information collected from secondary sources will be based on the accuracy of the original writer, and in some cases, the accuracy of anyone who may have contributed or updated historical information. With the passage of time the accounts of a person’s life may have been altered, particularly oral records that are handed down from one family member to the next. Information may further be altered by one’s interpretation of events.
By Scott Shrum