Imagine your grandchild inherits your family tree. How reliable will the information be for your generation?
I don't need a document to tell me I was born in Mother Cabrini Hospital in New York City. Or that I was baptized in Our Lady of Pity Church in the Bronx. (Both gone now, by the way.)
But years from now, if my grandchild wants to carry on my genealogy work, what proof will they have for facts about me, my siblings and my cousins?
|Marriage registers, yearbooks, newspaper |
clippings…these are official sources for your
Everyone says to start your tree with yourself and the facts you know. Then you move on. Finding census forms, draft registration cards, death records and so much more. But have you returned to yourself and your generation to find proof for your facts?
Your Own Documents
You should have your own birth certificate in your possession. I even have my baptismal certificate, along with two marriage certificates.
I need to scan those documents and put them in my family tree. (For the worriers: You can mark individual images as private in Family Tree Maker. Hopefully in your software, too.)
Of course, I'm not going to ask my brother and my cousins to let me scan their birth certificates. So what do you do?
Public Records Index
On Ancestry.com you can access volumes 1 and 2 of the U.S. Public Records Index, 1950–1993. The information in these databases comes from a combination of:
- telephone books
- post office change-of-address forms
- other public documents.
In my experience, the birth dates given in these collections are often wrong. For me, an entry might say I was born on the 1st of the month instead of the 24th. But it generally has the right year.
So, when all else fails, a public records source proves the person in your tree existed:
- by their name
- in a specific place
- in a specific range of time.
Newly Released Indexes
It pays to watch social media for genealogy news. That's where you can learn about groups like Reclaim the Records. They're on a mission to get access to the genealogical and archival data we genealogists want so much.
They've scored tremendous wins, particularly for New York and New Jersey documents. But they're also working to release data from many U.S. states.
Thanks to them, I've found documentation for several events, including:
- my parents' marriage license
- my grandfather's 2nd marriage license
- my and my close cousins' births
- my grandmother Lucy's birth
|Seeing the index of New York births, I finally found my grandmother's birth certificate number.|
Lucy's birth record has eluded me for years. Now I know her New York State birth certificate number is 60968. On the index she has no first name and a badly misspelled last name. No wonder I couldn't find her certificate! It's definitely her because my father has always known she was born on 10 Dec 1908 in Hornell, New York.
I haven't found much historical information on my family in the newspapers. But I'm constantly finding references to my brother in newspapers. His career has always had a big public relations aspect to it. So any search for Iamarino brings up my brother. I found his North Carolina marriage announcement that way.
|Proof of a modern-day marriage may be found in the bride's hometown paper.|
You may have more luck searching for your family. Think about all the events you could search for when it comes to your contemporary relatives:
- birth, marriage and death announcements
- public relations announcements for various professionals
- graduating class lists
Your facts and your closest, living relatives' facts may not be your top priority. But documenting these things you've known all your life:
- your mom's birth date
- your brother's middle name
- your aunt's home address
…will go a long way toward strengthening your legacy.
Set aside some time to find documents or public sources for your own nuclear family. Some day your grandchild may thank you from the bottom of their heart.