| Because family history depends on finding records about individuals and families, it is important to understand the nature of the records that you will be searching. Most records used for genealogical research were not created for genealogical use. It is helpful to understand events, and why the records were created.
Most records were created to register events such as birth, death, or military service. Noteworthy happenings in a person’s physical, social, religious, family, civil, or private life were recorded by various jurisdictions.
Usually records are connected to a specific locality; a town, county, state, province, region or nation. In order to find a person in a record, you must know the specific place (usually the town or county) where the family lived when the record was created. Sometimes the place may have changed since the person lived there. It may have a new name or belong to a new county, province, or state. Gazetteers (geographic dictionaries) can help you determine this information. Also see the discussion of Jurisdictions.
Creating the Records
Authorities create records to serve their organization. The records may describe (1) an event or (2) the size and nature of the population. It is helpful to understand why a record was kept. For example, to use a tax list, you need to know if the government was taxing real or personal property, or every head of household or adult males. Each tax list may include different people and property.