Important Document Overview

Here is a quick and simple overview of documents you should be searching for to aid you in your family tree research! There is a short description of information you could find in each one of these records.

Vital records can be of great value when uncovering your families past. These are true treasures!

Birth Certificate/Record:

  • In USA records, this can provide Birth date, place (the city the hospital is in or home if   they had a home birth-not always the same city they lived in), parents names, hospital name, and possibly doctors name.
  • Often times records from other countries will record information about the infant’s parents, and grandfathers as well- that alone can be a great help.

Christening/Baptism or Dedication Record:

  • In USA records, this will generally provide similar information to a birth record

Census Records:

  • Census records offer information on the state, city/town, county and even street address.
  • This typically also lists the members of the household as well as any boarders or any non-immediate family members residing at the same address.
  • The census record may also shed some light on the year or even exact date of immigration.
  • The census also tells occupation information, if the individuals are literate in the language of the country they are residing in.
  • Census records are one of my favorite tools for discovering and piecing together information on family history!

City Directories:

  • City directories can often tell you what the individual does for a living, and the address of their home or their employer. They can also allow you to view others with the same last name so you can explore further if there is a relative connection between them.

Military Records:

  • These records can contain enlistment information, stations and assignments.
  • Also contained here can be information on training, and performance (including disciplinary actions).

Passport Applications:

  • I LOVE finding passport applications! These provide so much information. They will list names of the individual traveling and those traveling along with them, the reason for travel (which I find so exciting), age, birth place, and destination. The dates of their past travels, how long they have been in their last location and occupation may also be listed!
  • This may also provide a description of the individual as well as a photo!
  • This is simply lots of fun information packed into one document!!!

Ship Manifests:

  • Ship manifests can be either really helpful or really frustrating! These documents can contain individuals age, date of birth, birth place, marital status, who they are traveling to meet, who paid their way, if they are literate in reading and writing and possibly even more…
  • These manifests can also be so disappointing! They can be difficult to read and contain lots of errors. Some old manifests only contain a list of names and no further information.

Naturalization Records:

  • A naturalization record can contain a birthdate, birthplace, immigration date, and address in the USA.

Marriage Certificates/Records:

  • A marriage certificate can contain a birthdate and fathers names. It will contain the county and state in which the marriage took place.

Death Certificates:

  • Death certificates are another document that I love to get information from. The certificate should contain a birthdate (which may or may not be accurate), birth place, parents names and the name of a witness (often times this is someone close to the deceased), as well as a spouse name if the spouse is still living.
  • The document should also include a cause of death (which can be helpful if there is a pattern in a family, or it can just plain be interesting).
  • The last known address should also be listed on this form.


  • Obituaries can be a great resource! Family members are listed, some that have preceded the individual in death as well as surviving family members. Often times, obituaries and funeral programs can provide a nice picture of the life activities of the deceased.

 Thanks for reading. Happy searching!



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