How to Recognize your United States AncestorEdit This Page

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= Introduction  =
  
= Build the identity of your ancestor =
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Imagine you have searched a record and found a person who is a possible match for your ancestor. It gets exciting, for finding your ancestor in a record is one of the true joys of genealogical research.
  
As you research, your goal is to build an identity of your ancestor. This allows you to recognize him or her in the records you search. Your ancestor's identity also helps you not be sidetracked when you find other people with the same name.  
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However, there are pitfalls along the way. Sometimes we want so much to find our ancestor that we ignore those pitfalls and end up "barking up the wrong family tree." Correct connections come from building the identity of your ancestor and comparing what you know about your ancestor with what you learn about each possible match.  
  
As you research, you will find records that match the name, but may not be for the same person. The skill is to be able to recognize whether that person is or is not yours.  
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This guide will help you ask questions and help you decide if a person is, in fact, your ancestor.  
  
<br>
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As you compare what you already know about your ancestor against the new information you found, you can decide whether you can feel reasonably sure that you have located your ancestor.
  
You can tell by the events of their lives which of two or more possible matches was your ancestor, or whether none of the possible matches was your ancestor.
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= Steps  =
  
Too many genealogists find a hopeful individual with the right surname and then try to establish a connection between that person and their known ancestors. Almost always, such attempts end up with erroneous connections. Correct connections must be built by working back from known information to the unknown.  
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Once you have found a person in a record who may be your ancestor, the following steps will help you determine if you have, in fact, found your ancestor.  
  
You must develop the skill of analyzing carefully to come to good conclusions.  
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=== Step 1. Build an identity for your ancestor  ===
  
<br>
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As you research, your goal is to build on the identity of your ancestor. You need to know enough to be able to recognize him or her in the records you search. Your ancestor's identity also helps you to not be sidetracked when you find another person with the same name—a possible match.
  
= Getting Started  =
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These ideas will help you identify your ancestor clearly:
  
You have searched a record and found a person who could be a possible match for your ancestor. Recognizing a person as your ancestor is one of the true joys of genealogical research. However, there are pitfalls along the way. Sometimes researchers want so much to find a person that they ignore these pitfalls and end up making inaccurate connections. This guide will help you ask the questions which will help you decide if a person is, in fact, your ancestor.
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*Make a time line with dates and places of events in your ancestor's life. [https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/images/f/f6/Blank_Time_Line_for_My_Ancestor.pdf Time Line for My Ancestor] or [https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/images/2/27/Blank_Time_Line_for_a_Specific_Record_for_a_Possible_Match.pdf Time Line of a Specific Record for a Possible Match]
  
As you compare what you already know about your ancestor against the new information you found in a record, you can decide whether you can feel reasonably sure that you have located your ancestor.  
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::Include identity, origin, family, associates and neighbors. Use the [http://www.genealogical.com/products/QuickSheet%20The%20Historical%20Biographer%E2%80%99s%20Guide%20to%20Cluster%20Research%20the%20FAN%20Principle/3868.html FAN club principle] by asking:
  
<br>
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:::*Who are the family, associates and neighbors?
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:::*What did they do together?
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:::*When did they get together?
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:::*Where did they meet together?
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:::*Why did they associate with each other?
  
= Steps  =
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::Also include: property purchases, military service, and of course births, marriages and deaths.
  
Once you have found a person in a record who may be your ancestor, the following 5 steps will help you determine if you have, in fact, found your ancestor.  
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::Consider mentioning what was happening in the community and how those events may have affected your ancestor.
  
=== <br>Step 1. Review what you already know about your ancestor. ===
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::On your time line, include other people named in documents you find for each date and event.
  
Do the following to identify your ancestor clearly:
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::Briefly give the source of your information.
  
<br>Make a time line, listing known facts about your ancestor. <br>On your time line, include other persons associated with your ancestor. <br>Briefly give the source of your information. <br>Use an analysis chart to identify and evaluate what you know. <br>Evaluate what that information may suggest.
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::Here are examples of timelines:
  
<br>See the following time line for an example of known information:  
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:::*[[US Timelines - Creation and Use with Families]]
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:::*[http://www.cyndislist.com/timelines Cyndi's list.com/timelines]
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:::*[http://www.genealogy.com/36_donna.html Using Timelines in Your Research]
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:::*[http://home.netcom.com/~genealogy/genealogy_timeline.htm The Genealogy Timeline]
  
<br>
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{| width="200" cellspacing="1" cellpadding="1" border="1"
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|+ '''One Record Time Line for a Possible Match:''' Name: Samuel Richman and others
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|-
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! scope="col" | Date
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! scope="col" | Record________________________________________________________________name
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|-
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| 1816, Nov 16
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| Samuel Richman was born in Woodstown, Salem Co., NJ. Source: biographical encyclopedia entry for son, S. Luther Richmond.
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|-
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| 1819
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| Jonathan Richman, brother of Samuel Richman, was born in Woodstown, Salem Co., NJ. Source: Census 1850, 1860.
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|-
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| 1843, Apr 11
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| Samuel Richman married in Bridgeton, Cumberland Co., NJ. Source: Family Bible record.
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|-
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|
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| Samuel Richman had 7 children. Source: biographical encyclopedia for son, S. Luther Richmond.
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|-
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| 1850
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| Samuel Richmond made shoes in Salem City, Salem Co., NJ. Jonathan Richmond was listed as being in the household. Source: 1850 Census.
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|-
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| 1899, Jan 13
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| Death of Samuel Richmond. Source: biographical encyclopedia for son, S. Luther Richmond.
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|}
  
MY ANCESTOR Time Line for My Ancestor: Samuel Richman/Richmond (name)<br>
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*Use an analysis chart to identify and evaluate what you know.
  
Date<br>Information About My Ancestor <br><br>1816, Nov 16<br>Samuel Richman was born in Woodstown, Salem Co., NJ. Source: biographical encyclopedia entry for son, S. Luther Richmond.<br><br>1819<br>Jonathan Richman, brother of Samuel Richman, was born in Woodstown, Salem Co., NJ. Source: Census 1850, 1860.<br><br>1843, Apr 11<br>Samuel Richman married in Bridgeton, Cumberland Co., NJ. Source: Family Bible record.<br><br>Samuel Richman had 7 children. Source: biographical encyclopedia for son, S. Luther Richmond.<br><br>1850<br>Samuel Richmond made shoes in Salem City, Salem Co., NJ. Jonathan Richmond was listed as being in the household. Source: 1850 Census.<br><br>1899, Jan 13<br>Death of Samuel Richmond. Source: biographical encyclopedia for son, S. Luther Richmond.<br>
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::*[https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/images/c/c1/Blank_Analysis_Chart_for_a_Possible_Match.pdf Analysis Chart for a Possible Match]
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::*[https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/images/4/4e/Blank_Analysis_Chart_for_My_Ancestor.pdf Analysis Chart for My Ancestor]
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::*[http://stellar-one.com/genealogy/cousins.htm Cousins - how many times removed]
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::*[https://familysearch.org/search/catalog/1199801 A conceptural model of genealogical evidence&nbsp;: linkage between present-day sources and past facts]
  
<br>For help in making a time line, see Tip 1.
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*Consider what your findings may suggest.<br>
  
For a working copy of a time line, click here.  
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{| width="600" cellspacing="1" cellpadding="1" border="1"
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|+ '''Analysis Chart for a Possible Match:''' (name) Samuel Richman
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|-
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| '''What Do I Know About the Possible Match?'''
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| &nbsp;'''Analysis and Conclusions&nbsp;'''
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|-
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| Biographical encyclopedia says the father of Samuel Richman/Richmond was Isaac Richman and that they lived in Woodstown, Salem Co., NJ.
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| Look for records associating Samuel Richman/Richmond with Isaac Richman in Woodstown, Salem Co., NJ.
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|-
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| Samuel Richman/Richmond may have been a Methodist because there is a Methodist hymnal in our family artifacts.
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| Check Woodstown and Salem City Methodist church records.
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|-
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| Samuel Richman/Richmond and his brother lived in Salem City, Salem Co., NJ and were shoemakers, according to the 1850 census.
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| If the family did come from Woodstown, they must have moved to Salem City at some point.
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|}
  
Use an analysis chart to help you identify what you already know about your ancestor and to evaluate what that information may suggest. The following chart is a sample:
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=== Step 2. Learn about the person who is a possible match  ===
 
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<br>
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MY ANCESTOR Analysis Chart for My Ancestor: Samuel Richman/Richmond (name)<br>
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What Do I Know About My Ancestor?<br>Analysis and Conclusions<br><br>Biographical encyclopedia says the father of Samuel Richman/Richmond was Isaac Richman and that they lived in Woodstown, Salem Co., NJ.<br>Look for records associating Samuel Richman/Richmond with Isaac Richman in Woodstown, Salem Co., NJ.<br>Samuel Richman/Richmond may have been a Methodist because there is a Methodist hymnal in our family artifacts.<br>Check Woodstown and Salem City Methodist church records.<br><br>Samuel Richman/Richmond and his brother lived in Salem City, Salem Co., NJ and were shoemakers, according to the 1850 census.<br>If the family did come from Woodstown, they must have moved to Salem City at some point.<br>
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To print a working copy of an analysis chart, click here.
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<br>
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=== <br>Step 2. Identify what you know about the person who is a possible match. ===
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Do the following to identify this person clearly:  
 
Do the following to identify this person clearly:  
  
<br>Make a time line of information given in the record of the possible match person. This time line may be quite small but will establish dates and places clearly. <br>On your time line, include other persons mentioned in the record who were associated with the possible match. <br>Use an analysis chart to identify and evaluate what you know. <br>Evaluate what that information may suggest.  
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*Make a time line of information given in the record of the possible match person. This time line may be quite small but will establish dates and places clearly.  
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*On that time line, include other persons mentioned in the record.  
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*Use an analysis chart to identify and evaluate what you know.  
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*Evaluate what that information may suggest.
  
<br>POSSIBLE MATCH One Record Time Line for a Possible Match: Samuel Richman and others (name) <br>
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{| width="600" cellspacing="1" cellpadding="1" border="1"
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|+ '''MY ANCESTOR Time Line for My Ancestor:''' (name) Samuel Richman
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|-
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| '''Date'''
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| '''Record: Woodstown Methodist Church, Salem Co., NJ'''
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|-
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| 1839, Apr
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| Sybilla Richman and Samuel Richman, members of Class No. 3, Woodstown Methodist Church, Salem Co., NJ.
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|-
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| 1839, Nov
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| Isaac Richman and Jonathan Richman "Joined on probation," Woodstown Methodist Church, Salem Co., NJ.
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|-
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| 1840, Oct 4
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| Isaac Richman and Jonathan Richman "Received into full membership," Woodstown Methodist Church, Salem Co., NJ.
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|-
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| 1841, Sept
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| Jonathan Richman "removed" from Woodstown Methodist Church, Salem Co., NJ.
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|-
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| 1842, Apr
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| Samuel Richman "removed' from Woodstown Methodist Church, Salem Co., NJ.
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|}
  
Date<br>Record: Woodstown Methodist Church, Salem Co., NJ (name of record)<br><br>1839, Apr <br>Sybilla Richman and Samuel Richman, members of Class No. 3, Woodstown Methodist Church, Salem Co., NJ.<br><br>1839, Nov<br>Isaac Richman and Jonathan Richman "Joined on probation," Woodstown Methodist Church, Salem Co., NJ.<br><br>1840, Oct 4<br>Isaac Richman and Jonathan Richman "Received into full membership," Woodstown Methodist Church, Salem Co., NJ.<br><br>1841, Sept<br>Jonathan Richman "removed" from Woodstown Methodist Church, Salem Co., NJ.<br><br>1842, Apr <br>Samuel Richman "removed' from Woodstown Methodist Church, Salem Co., NJ.<br>
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To print a working copy of a time line for a specific record, [https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/images/f/f6/Blank_Time_Line_for_My_Ancestor.pdf click here.]
  
<br>To print a working copy of a time line for a specific record, click here.  
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For helps in making a time line, see [[#Tip_1|Tip 1. How do I make a time line]].<br>
  
For helps in making a time line, see Tip 1.  
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=== Step 3. Analyze and compare your ancestor with the possible match  ===
  
Use an Analysis Chart to help you identify what you know about the possible match person and evaluate what that information may suggest. The following chart is a sample of an analysis chart:  
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Ask yourself:  
  
<br>
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:*Is the possible match person living in the right place to be my ancestor?
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:*Is this event in the right time to be within the lifetime of my ancestor?
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:*Is the possible match person too young or too old to have been my ancestor?
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:*Are names of children of the possible match consistent with what I know about the children of my ancestor?
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:*Do the ages of the children seem logical or are they too young or too old to belong to my ancestor?
  
POSSIBLE MATCH Analysis Chart for a Single Record: Samuel Richman and others (name of person) Woodstown Methodist Church Records, Salem Co., NJ (name of record) <br>
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For more questions to help you analyze, see [[#Tip_2|Tip 2 Is this my ancestor.]]
  
What Do I Know About the Possible Match? <br>Analysis and Conclusions<br><br>1. This Samuel Richman and family members were Methodist.<br>1. Confirms what I suspected from the Methodist hymnal in our family artifacts.<br><br>2. This Samuel Richman "removed" from the Methodist Church in Woodstown, Salem Co., NJ in April, 1842.<br>2. Samuel Richman moved somewhere else. Where?<br><br>3. Samuel Richman, Sybilla Richman, Isaac Richman and Jonathan Richman were all attending the Woodstown Methodist Church between April, 1839 and April, 1842. <br>3. I know from our family Bible record that Sybilla Richman was the mother of Samuel Richman, and Isaac Richman was the father of Jonathan Richman. Also, I know from the 1850 census that Samuel Richmond and Jonathan Richmond were living together in Salem, Salem Co., NJ. Finding these people together in this church record points to these people being a family.<br><br>4. Samuel and Jonathan Richman both left the Woodstown Methodist Church in 1841 and 1842.<br>4. It is very possible that the Samuel Richmond, shoemaker, and Jonathan Richmond, shoemaker, in the 1850 census in Salem, Salem Co., NJ were these same two people and were brothers.<br>
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=== Step 4. Make a decision about the possible match  ===
 
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<br>To print a working copy of an analysis chart for a specific record to be used with a possible match, click here.
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<br>
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=== <br>Step 3. Analyze and compare what you know about your ancestor with what you know about the possible match.  ===
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See Tip 2 for questions to ask yourself as you compare these two time lines and analysis charts.
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<br>
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=== <br>Step 4. Make a decision about the possible match. ===
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To decide about the possible match person, do one of the following:  
 
To decide about the possible match person, do one of the following:  
  
<br>Confirm the person as your ancestor. <br>Suspect that the person may be a relative with the same name. <br>Eliminate that person as your possible ancestor. <br>Decide that there is not enough information yet to confirm or eliminate this person as your ancestor. In that case, see Tip 3.
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:*Confirm the person as your ancestor.  
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:*Suspect that the person may be a relative with the same name.  
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:*Eliminate that person as your possible ancestor.  
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:*Decide that there is not enough information yet to confirm or eliminate this person as your ancestor. In that case, see [[#Tip_3|Tip 3 If I am not sure, what should I do next?]]
  
<br>
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=== Step 5. Write a brief summary of your research findings  ===
  
=== Step 5. Write a brief summary of your research findings.  ===
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After your research, write a brief summary or report about your ancestor. Either you can explain what records proved your ancestor's life events and can document his or her life history, or you can explain what records did not lead you to a definite conclusion. Either way, you will have made a valuable contribution to your family's genealogical research efforts.  
 
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<br>After your research, write a brief summary report about your ancestor. Either you can explain what records proved your ancestor's life events and can document his or her life history, or you can explain what records did not lead you to a definite conclusion. Either way, you will have made a valuable contribution to your family's genealogical research efforts.  
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Be sure to include in your paragraph the title, author, and call number of the book or film of all records you have searched.  
 
Be sure to include in your paragraph the title, author, and call number of the book or film of all records you have searched.  
  
<br>
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<br>  
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= Tips  =
  
== Tips ==
 
 
=== Tip 1. How do I make a time line?  ===
 
=== Tip 1. How do I make a time line?  ===
  
 
To help you single out your ancestor, include on a time line:  
 
To help you single out your ancestor, include on a time line:  
  
<br>Events in date order (the same order they happened in your ancestor's life). <br>Birth, marriage, and death information for each family member. <br>Dates of other events and the persons associated with these events, such as a neighbor purchasing land from your ancestor or a witness to the will of your ancestor. <br>Information on events that are not yet proven but may help identify your ancestor.  
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:*Events in date order (the same order they happened in your ancestor's life  
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:*Birth, marriage, and death information for each family member  
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:*Dates of other events, such as buying or selling land
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:*Other persons associated with these events, such as neighbors on a census or witnesses on a deed or will  
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:*Happenings in the community that may have affected your ancestor  
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:*Events that are not yet proven but may help identify your ancestor. (Be sure to clearly mark these as unproven.)
  
<br>A word processor is a useful tool when making a time line, because you can easily insert new information between older dates.  
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A word processor is a useful tool when making a time line, because you can easily insert new dates as needed.  
  
To print a working copy of a time line, click here.  
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To print a working copy of a time line, [click here.  
 
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You can also do a time line for just one specific record to help you see clearly the contents and value of that record. To print a working copy of a time line for a specific record, click here.
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<br>
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=== Tip 2. Is this my ancestor?  ===
 
=== Tip 2. Is this my ancestor?  ===
  
To answer this question, ask yourself:
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*Is this the right spouse?
  
==== 1. Is the possible match person living in the right place to be my ancestor?  ====
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:To verify the name of a wife, check marriage records, children's birth records, land records, cemetery records, church records, and probate records.<br>
  
==== 2. Is this event in the right time to be within the lifetime of my ancestor? ====
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*Are the economic conditions of this person consistent with the known family history?
  
Ask yourself these questions:  
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:It is highly unusual for a wealthy person to&nbsp;be&nbsp;found in a poor section of the county on a small, rented acreage, or for a poor person to suddenly be a noted county official, living in a mansion.
  
<br>Is the possible match person too young or too old to have been my ancestor? <br>Are names of children, associated with the possible match consistent with what I already know about the children of my ancestor? <br>Do the ages of the children seem logical, or are they too young or too old to be my ancestor's children?
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:The following records give a good indication of the economic condition of the family:
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:*Census records: notice the column listing property values.
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:*Tax lists: check both property and personal property taxed.
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:*Land records: see both the number of properties and the acreage of lands owned.
  
==== <br>3. Is this the right spouse? ====
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*Is the FAN Club of your ancestor the same people as the FAN Club for the possible match?
  
To verify the name of a wife, check marriage records, children's birth records, land records, cemetery records, church records, and probate records.
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:The following records are rich resources for learning the '''F'''amily, '''A'''ssociates, and '''N'''eighbors (FAN Club) of both your ancestor and the possible match:
  
==== 4. Are the economic conditions of this person consistent with the known family history?  ====
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:*Land records for witnesses and neighbors
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:*Censuses for neighbors
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:*Marriage records to learn the names of grooms for sisters or aunts
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:*Church records to learn names of other members
  
It is highly unusual for a wealthy person to suddenly be farming in a poor section of the county on a small, rented acreage, or a poor person to suddenly be a noted county official, living in a mansion. The following records give a good indication of the economic condition of the family.  
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*Check other records to see what the possible match person did after this record was made.
  
<br>Census records: see the column listing property values. <br>Tax lists: see property tax and personal property taxed. <br>Land records: see acreage of lands owned, and number of properties owned.
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:Migration can be a good clue:
  
==== <br>5. Do the relatives and associates of your ancestor appear in records with the possible match? ====
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:*If your ancestor moved, see if the possible match person stayed around or did they seem to have migrated?  
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:*Conversely, if you have a burial record or other proof that your ancestor stayed around, try to determine if the possible match moved.
  
<br>Check land records of the possible match person for neighbors and witnesses of deeds to see if their names are the same people you know associated with your ancestor. <br>Check marriage records of the possible match person and his children to see if the bondsmen and witnesses are persons who you know associated with your ancestor. <br>Check church records of the possible match person to see if the names of members in the congregation were also associates of your ancestor. <br>Check other records to see what the possible match person did after this record was made. Migration can be a good clue:
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:If their data matches, the possible match person is still a candidate.<br>
  
<br>
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*Is the possible match person affiliated with the church you know your ancestor belonged to?
  
- If the possible match person migrated to a new location, does that eliminate him or her because you have a burial record or other proof that your ancestor remained in the old location? - If the possible match person migrated to a new location, could this be your ancestor, and you did not know he or she had moved? <br>
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:For example, does the possible match person appear in Presbyterian church records, but you know your ancestor was a Quaker?  
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:Be careful here, since people may have changed religions. For example, your ancestor may have been a Quaker originally, but went to war or married out of the faith.<br>
  
==== <br>6. Is the possible match person affiliated with the church you know your ancestor belonged to? ====
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*There is a person living in a neighboring county who has the same name as my ancestor. Could they be a possible match person?
  
<br>Does the possible match person appear in Presbyterian church records, but you know your ancestor was a Quaker? <br>Is there evidence that the possible match person changed religions, such as from Quaker to Presbyterian? Was he a Quaker originally, but then married out of the faith and was disowned? Could this actually be what happened to your ancestor, and they are the same person?
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:They may be the same person. Check county boundary changes or parent counties. Your ancestor could own land in a neighboring county, or could have lived on his farm when a new county was formed, finding himself in another county without actually moving.
  
==== <br>7. Could the possible match person, living in a neighboring county, be my ancestor?  ====
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:For more information, see County Boundary Changes.<br>
  
Check county boundary changes on a map to see if the county where you know your ancestor lived could have once been part of another county. Your ancestor could have lived in the other county for a time, without actually moving his or her residence.
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*Why is the name of the possible match person spelled differently from my ancestor's name?
  
For more information, see County Boundary Changes.  
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:The name of a person was commonly spelled differently in different documents. For more information, see Name Variations.
  
==== <br>8. Why is the name of the possible match person spelled differently from my ancestor's name?  ====
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=== Tip 3. If I am still not sure, what should I do next?  ===
 
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The name of a person was commonly spelled differently in different documents. For more information, see Name Variations.
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<br>
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=== Tip 3. If I am still not sure I have found my ancestor, what should I do next?  ===
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Choose another record which has a possible match person, and repeat the first 4 steps in this guide.  
 
Choose another record which has a possible match person, and repeat the first 4 steps in this guide.  
Line 174: Line 229:
 
Other major records available in most places in the United States include:  
 
Other major records available in most places in the United States include:  
  
<br>Census records, both federal and state. <br>Birth, marriage and death records, known as "Vital Records." <br>Cemetery records. <br>Church records. <br>Land records. <br>Probate records (wills, administrations, inventories).
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*Census records, both federal and state  
 
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*Birth, marriage and death records, frequently known as "Vital Records"  
<br>To locate these records, see the Records Selection Table in the United States Research Outline to help you decide which records to search.
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*Cemetery records  
 
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*Church records  
For descriptions of records available through Family History Centers or the Family History Library, click on Family History Library Catalog on the bar above.  
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*Land records  
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*Probate records (wills, administrations, inventories).
  
<br>Click on Place Search, and type the name of the state, county, or town in the Place box. When searching towns or counties, add the name of the state in the Part of (optional) box. <br>Select from the list of topics for that place. <br>Select from the list of titles to see descriptions of the records with the film or book call numbers. <br>Use that information to obtain the records at a family history center or at the Family History Library.  
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Many of these records were created on a county or town level. In this FamilySearch Wiki, search for the county you need. The county page will list various types of records with links to online resources and to records available through the Family History Library or Family History Centers.  
  
<br>To find birth and death records, search for state records, then for county records, and then for town records.
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[[Category:Researcher_help]][[Category:How to articles]] [[Category:United States]]

Latest revision as of 19:18, 1 October 2013

Contents

Introduction

Imagine you have searched a record and found a person who is a possible match for your ancestor. It gets exciting, for finding your ancestor in a record is one of the true joys of genealogical research.

However, there are pitfalls along the way. Sometimes we want so much to find our ancestor that we ignore those pitfalls and end up "barking up the wrong family tree." Correct connections come from building the identity of your ancestor and comparing what you know about your ancestor with what you learn about each possible match.

This guide will help you ask questions and help you decide if a person is, in fact, your ancestor.

As you compare what you already know about your ancestor against the new information you found, you can decide whether you can feel reasonably sure that you have located your ancestor.

Steps

Once you have found a person in a record who may be your ancestor, the following steps will help you determine if you have, in fact, found your ancestor.

Step 1. Build an identity for your ancestor

As you research, your goal is to build on the identity of your ancestor. You need to know enough to be able to recognize him or her in the records you search. Your ancestor's identity also helps you to not be sidetracked when you find another person with the same name—a possible match.

These ideas will help you identify your ancestor clearly:

Include identity, origin, family, associates and neighbors. Use the FAN club principle by asking:
  • Who are the family, associates and neighbors?
  • What did they do together?
  • When did they get together?
  • Where did they meet together?
  • Why did they associate with each other?
Also include: property purchases, military service, and of course births, marriages and deaths.
Consider mentioning what was happening in the community and how those events may have affected your ancestor.
On your time line, include other people named in documents you find for each date and event.
Briefly give the source of your information.
Here are examples of timelines:
One Record Time Line for a Possible Match: Name: Samuel Richman and others
Date Record________________________________________________________________name
1816, Nov 16 Samuel Richman was born in Woodstown, Salem Co., NJ. Source: biographical encyclopedia entry for son, S. Luther Richmond.
1819 Jonathan Richman, brother of Samuel Richman, was born in Woodstown, Salem Co., NJ. Source: Census 1850, 1860.
1843, Apr 11 Samuel Richman married in Bridgeton, Cumberland Co., NJ. Source: Family Bible record.
Samuel Richman had 7 children. Source: biographical encyclopedia for son, S. Luther Richmond.
1850 Samuel Richmond made shoes in Salem City, Salem Co., NJ. Jonathan Richmond was listed as being in the household. Source: 1850 Census.
1899, Jan 13 Death of Samuel Richmond. Source: biographical encyclopedia for son, S. Luther Richmond.
  • Use an analysis chart to identify and evaluate what you know.
  • Consider what your findings may suggest.
Analysis Chart for a Possible Match: (name) Samuel Richman
What Do I Know About the Possible Match?  Analysis and Conclusions 
Biographical encyclopedia says the father of Samuel Richman/Richmond was Isaac Richman and that they lived in Woodstown, Salem Co., NJ. Look for records associating Samuel Richman/Richmond with Isaac Richman in Woodstown, Salem Co., NJ.
Samuel Richman/Richmond may have been a Methodist because there is a Methodist hymnal in our family artifacts. Check Woodstown and Salem City Methodist church records.
Samuel Richman/Richmond and his brother lived in Salem City, Salem Co., NJ and were shoemakers, according to the 1850 census. If the family did come from Woodstown, they must have moved to Salem City at some point.

Step 2. Learn about the person who is a possible match

Do the following to identify this person clearly:

  • Make a time line of information given in the record of the possible match person. This time line may be quite small but will establish dates and places clearly.
  • On that time line, include other persons mentioned in the record.
  • Use an analysis chart to identify and evaluate what you know.
  • Evaluate what that information may suggest.
MY ANCESTOR Time Line for My Ancestor: (name) Samuel Richman
Date Record: Woodstown Methodist Church, Salem Co., NJ
1839, Apr Sybilla Richman and Samuel Richman, members of Class No. 3, Woodstown Methodist Church, Salem Co., NJ.
1839, Nov Isaac Richman and Jonathan Richman "Joined on probation," Woodstown Methodist Church, Salem Co., NJ.
1840, Oct 4 Isaac Richman and Jonathan Richman "Received into full membership," Woodstown Methodist Church, Salem Co., NJ.
1841, Sept Jonathan Richman "removed" from Woodstown Methodist Church, Salem Co., NJ.
1842, Apr Samuel Richman "removed' from Woodstown Methodist Church, Salem Co., NJ.

To print a working copy of a time line for a specific record, click here.

For helps in making a time line, see Tip 1. How do I make a time line.

Step 3. Analyze and compare your ancestor with the possible match

Ask yourself:

  • Is the possible match person living in the right place to be my ancestor?
  • Is this event in the right time to be within the lifetime of my ancestor?
  • Is the possible match person too young or too old to have been my ancestor?
  • Are names of children of the possible match consistent with what I know about the children of my ancestor?
  • Do the ages of the children seem logical or are they too young or too old to belong to my ancestor?

For more questions to help you analyze, see Tip 2 Is this my ancestor.

Step 4. Make a decision about the possible match

To decide about the possible match person, do one of the following:

  • Confirm the person as your ancestor.
  • Suspect that the person may be a relative with the same name.
  • Eliminate that person as your possible ancestor.
  • Decide that there is not enough information yet to confirm or eliminate this person as your ancestor. In that case, see Tip 3 If I am not sure, what should I do next?

Step 5. Write a brief summary of your research findings

After your research, write a brief summary or report about your ancestor. Either you can explain what records proved your ancestor's life events and can document his or her life history, or you can explain what records did not lead you to a definite conclusion. Either way, you will have made a valuable contribution to your family's genealogical research efforts.

Be sure to include in your paragraph the title, author, and call number of the book or film of all records you have searched.


Tips

Tip 1. How do I make a time line?

To help you single out your ancestor, include on a time line:

  • Events in date order (the same order they happened in your ancestor's life
  • Birth, marriage, and death information for each family member
  • Dates of other events, such as buying or selling land
  • Other persons associated with these events, such as neighbors on a census or witnesses on a deed or will
  • Happenings in the community that may have affected your ancestor
  • Events that are not yet proven but may help identify your ancestor. (Be sure to clearly mark these as unproven.)

A word processor is a useful tool when making a time line, because you can easily insert new dates as needed.

To print a working copy of a time line, [click here.

Tip 2. Is this my ancestor?

  • Is this the right spouse?
To verify the name of a wife, check marriage records, children's birth records, land records, cemetery records, church records, and probate records.
  • Are the economic conditions of this person consistent with the known family history?
It is highly unusual for a wealthy person to be found in a poor section of the county on a small, rented acreage, or for a poor person to suddenly be a noted county official, living in a mansion.
The following records give a good indication of the economic condition of the family:
  • Census records: notice the column listing property values.
  • Tax lists: check both property and personal property taxed.
  • Land records: see both the number of properties and the acreage of lands owned.
  • Is the FAN Club of your ancestor the same people as the FAN Club for the possible match?
The following records are rich resources for learning the Family, Associates, and Neighbors (FAN Club) of both your ancestor and the possible match:
  • Land records for witnesses and neighbors
  • Censuses for neighbors
  • Marriage records to learn the names of grooms for sisters or aunts
  • Church records to learn names of other members
  • Check other records to see what the possible match person did after this record was made.
Migration can be a good clue:
  • If your ancestor moved, see if the possible match person stayed around or did they seem to have migrated?
  • Conversely, if you have a burial record or other proof that your ancestor stayed around, try to determine if the possible match moved.
If their data matches, the possible match person is still a candidate.
  • Is the possible match person affiliated with the church you know your ancestor belonged to?
For example, does the possible match person appear in Presbyterian church records, but you know your ancestor was a Quaker?
Be careful here, since people may have changed religions. For example, your ancestor may have been a Quaker originally, but went to war or married out of the faith.
  • There is a person living in a neighboring county who has the same name as my ancestor. Could they be a possible match person?
They may be the same person. Check county boundary changes or parent counties. Your ancestor could own land in a neighboring county, or could have lived on his farm when a new county was formed, finding himself in another county without actually moving.
For more information, see County Boundary Changes.
  • Why is the name of the possible match person spelled differently from my ancestor's name?
The name of a person was commonly spelled differently in different documents. For more information, see Name Variations.

Tip 3. If I am still not sure, what should I do next?

Choose another record which has a possible match person, and repeat the first 4 steps in this guide.

Other major records available in most places in the United States include:

  • Census records, both federal and state
  • Birth, marriage and death records, frequently known as "Vital Records"
  • Cemetery records
  • Church records
  • Land records
  • Probate records (wills, administrations, inventories).

Many of these records were created on a county or town level. In this FamilySearch Wiki, search for the county you need. The county page will list various types of records with links to online resources and to records available through the Family History Library or Family History Centers.


 

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  • This page was last modified on 1 October 2013, at 19:18.
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