Public records provide an illuminating insight into the past. We'll list some of the most important documents and resources genealogists use in their work.
Vital records - consisting of birth, marriage, divorce and death - are a great help finding useful information about your ancestors and provide clues for further research. In the United States, many states began recording vital records in the late 19th or early 20th century. You can often find vital records at the local town or county level.
From the last century, The Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS) engaged in a large scale program of copying all available records of genealogical value and an index of the submissions of its members on microfilm.
The International Genealogical Index (IGI) contains hundreds of millions of records of individuals who lived between 1500 and 1900, primarily in the US, Canada and Europe. The Ancestral File (AF) database represents the contributions of Church members. The two major databases include precious data like the International Genealogical Index, the Ancestral File, the 1880 US Federal Census, and the Social Security Death Index.
A list of records that can be used in genealogy research:
How reliable are these records? Researchers must consider the effects that copying and compiling errors may have had on the information from any source. Each time a document is copied, information about the record may be lost and/or errors may creep in from mistyping, misreading or miswriting the information. Compiled sources such as online pedigree databases and published genealogies are also easily susceptible to misidentification errors and incorrect conclusions based on circumstantial evidence.