What sources of proof are acceptable?
For your assistance, we have included information about various types of proof deemed acceptable by most genealogical associations.
- Whenever possible, primary sources are preferred to secondary sources.
- Photocopies of all verifying materials should be stored in a safe place that will protect them from becoming lost or damaged. When asked to provide verifying materials, no original copies of documents should be sent.
Defined as contemporary and/or government records made at the time of the event by the parties involved. Those records are deemed acceptable sources in proving relationship from one generation to another. Here are some examples.
- BIRTH, DEATH AND MARRIAGE RECORDS: These records have been kept in almost all states for some time. Check with the state's Office of Vital Records.
- CENSUS RECORDS: These records are available at a number of regional and national locations and from several private parties. Check the various web site research locations for the facility nearest to you. All census records are available for loan to individuals and libraries from the United States National Archives and Records Administration's Census Microfilm Rental Program, P.O. Box 30, Annapolis Junction, MD 20701-0030.
- PROBATE RECORDS: Wills/estates (testate-with will; intestate-without will); Guardianships; Lists of heirs and relationship; Name changes; and sometimes transfer of real estate. Records begin at the formation of the county, and are usually in the County Court Clerk's office.
- LAND RECORDS & PLATS: Purchase or sale of property often shows residency and marital relationship. Available from the county where the land was owned, and maintained by the County Clerk's office or the Register of Deeds. General Land Office records are getting easier to obtain, especially the Eastern Division. A good example is The Official Land Patents Record Site by the Bureau of Land Management.
- TAX RECORDS: Taxes were paid on property owned on a yearly basis. Records are available from the time of the county's formation. Records may be located in the County Clerk's office or the Register of Deeds and/or the county tax assessor's office.
- MILITARY RECORDS: Records include muster-in and muster-out, pay vouchers, pension papers, and military bounty land warrants (before 1856) for: W.W.I (1914-1918); Spanish-American War (1898-1899); Civil War (1861-1865); Indian and Other Wars (1816-1898); Mexican War (1845-1849; War of 1812 (1812-1815); Revolutionary War (1775-1783). Records are available from the National Archives & Records Administration, 8th & Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20408.
- CHURCH RECORDS: Church records often contain birth, death, marriage, and funeral information of their membership.
- COURT RECORDS: Civil, criminal, divorce, and naturalization records begin from formation of the county and may be located in circuit court or superior court where the event occurred.
SUPPLEMENTAL OR SECONDARY SOURCES
Any sources in print that do not come from a contemporary or government record. Here are some examples.
- BIBLE RECORDS: Dated and/or undated. If possible, save a copy of the page showing the publisher, date of publication, and the actual page showing names, dates, and events. Identify current owners of Bible when known. Cite this information as well.
- OBITUARIES: Dated and identified, when known, name of newspaper and location. Most libraries contain copies of local newspapers.
- NEWSPAPER CLIPPINGS: Dated and identified, when known, name of newspaper and location. Clippings may include anniversaries, biographical sketches, awards, marriage notices, reminiscences, etc.
- FAMILY HISTORIES/GENEALOGIES PUBLISHED: When citing this type of material, cite the title page, author, and date published, the direct ancestral descent and location of the book.
- COUNTY HISTORIES/PORTRAITS AND BIOGRAPHICAL HISTORIES PUBLISHED: When citing this type of material, cite the title page, author, date published, publisher and other standard bibliography information.
- PERSONAL PAPERS: Unpublished written data include letters, diaries, journals, reunion records, and manuscripts. Please include author and dates when known.
- TOMBSTONE INSCRIPTIONS: Record the transcriptions of the stone. Also include the name and location of cemetery. A photograph should be made of the stone and retained as proof.
Click Here to Read a Great Article titled "Turning Information into Evidence and Proof -- It Takes a Human Mind" by Don Devine, CG, CGI. Published by Ancestry Magazine, May/June 2001.
Click Here to Read a Great Article titled "Understanding Sources, Citations, Documentation and Evaluating Evidence in Genealogy"