Public Records & Online Genealogy Resources

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Genealogy Records

Genealogy, the study of one’s ancestors, is a fascinating hobby that quickly becomes a passion for some. The ability to discover one’s past, through searches of public records and other information, offers insight to a person’s heritage, traditions and even medical history. Fortunately, the search for genealogy records has become significantly easier today, as much of this information is now available right on the Internet. With a wealth of facts, statistics and public records just a click away, it is no wonder so many are taking up the task of tracing their family trees.

Types of Genealogy Records

Genealogy RecordsThere are many types of public records that can be used in genealogy research, including the following:

  • Birth and Death Records
  • Cemetery and Obituary Records
  • Military Records
  • Marriage and Divorce Records
  • Naturalization and Immigration Records
  • U.S. Census Records
  • Court and Criminal Records

Many of these documents can now be found online, through Internet searches that make the research must faster, easier and more accurate than it ever was before. Now, online archive services are available to assist budding genealogists with their document searches. The ability to find many of these records from the comfort of home makes the genealogy job much more relaxing and enjoyable for modern researchers. It also opens the door to even more information that can be used to round out your family history.

Information Found in Records

The type of information you find in genealogical records will depend on the type of records you retrieve and the state in which the document is filed. As a general rule, most public records will include basic information like the name of the individual and the date and location of the event.

Birth records will also include the names of the parents, while death certificates will include the cause of death. Marriage records might list the location of the wedding and the signature of the person who officiated the ceremony.

Court and criminal records offer a wide range of facts and statistics, including misdemeanor and felony offenses, naturalization records and probate records.

Locations for Genealogy Records

The location of the genealogy records will also vary, based on where the state chooses to file these records. Vital records like birth, death and marriage records are often kept on file at the state’s health department. Other records, like court and criminal records, may be found at the county office where the documents were originally filed. Cemetery and obituary records may be some of the most challenging to find, since they are typically stored in individual publications and at the actual cemeteries where the person is buried.

There are also national locations for some genealogy records. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers contact information for finding vital records like birth and death certificates in all 50 states. The National Archives is also a source for a wide variety of information, including U.S. Census Records, and documents that date back centuries.

Restriction to Genealogy Records Access

While many of the genealogy records you come across will be open to the public, others have restricted access under state law. Many states limit access to vital documents like birth and death records to protect the identities and sensitive information of the individuals on the records. Marriage and divorce records might face similar restrictions. In most cases, these limits are only enforced for a limited period of time, which usually ranges anywhere from 25 to 100 years. At that point, the documents become a matter of public record. It is important to check the laws in the state where you are searching for documents to find out exactly what you are allowed to access.

Even when records are restricted, information about those events may still be available to genealogists. For example, official birth records used for identification purposes might be restricted, but general information about the birth may be available through a public records search. The same holds true for information on deaths, marriages and divorces. This allows you to gain information for your family research without compromising the identity or safety of the person on the document.

Online Genealogy Records Search

The best part of a genealogy records search today is that much of the research can be managed right from the comfort of home. Online search tools are now available that allow you to discover information about long lost relatives and distant ancestors by simply typing their name into a search tool. Of course, the more information you have about the individual, the more accurate your search will be. In some cases, you can even access free public records by simply downloading the documents onto your computer.