Ancestry: Genealogy: Guide: Information Sources:


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There are an immense variety of resources available to the genealogical researcher today. You may be able to gather valuable data from several important documents such as church registers, military service records, tax documents, census results, wills and testaments, real estate and property titles, voter's rosters...the list is virtually endless.

In the course of your genealogical research studies you will have the opportunity to peruse one or more of these documents. Sorting through this huge pile of information, many from documents dating from several years ago, can be quite an intimidating task for the beginning genealogical researcher and is often a source of much frustration and hair pulling. Far too often, a seemingly insignificant document has been cast aside because of the difficulty in processing the data contained within. Even experienced genealogical researchers, who have many years of field research under their belt, occasionally stumble upon the obstacle of making sense out of this information overload. The good news though is that the task of gathering useful and relevant data from a wide variety of sources does become easier the more often you do it. You will quickly learn to develop your eye for which documents are useful to your particular goals and develop the knack for focusing on these.

Of course, the fine art of genealogical research is hardly a black and white affair; there are no hard and fast rules that make it any easier for you to determine the valuable documents from the insignificant ones. You just never know where the next clue will pop up and a hastily scribbled note on a scrap of paper can be a key pointing your research, leading you into myriad avenues of further exploration. With experience you will develop a sense for which documents to focus on and which ones to gloss over.

One of the challenges facing genealogical researchers is that while there is a huge variety of documents and materials to sift through, many of these have not been specifically designed to aid researches in their genealogical studies at all. As such, the information contained therein is not always clearly laid out in a way that you would want. It would be very beneficial to your work-and in your future genealogical research endeavours--to develop the facility to collect, organise and analyse a wide variety of documents and learn to pick out only the pertinent information from each of them. Again there is no way around this challenge except many years of experience and given time you should be able to develop this facility on your own. Ideally, you will hardly expend any mental effort in this process and it becomes almost second nature to you.

All these issues should not discourage you from being meticulous in your genealogical research, rather you should view each new additional source of material as an opportunity waiting for you to explore it to its fullest. Genealogical research can be quite a fascinating field of study and creativity is almost always certain to produce satisfactory results.

Original Authors: Doods Pangburn
Edit Update Authors: Nicola Norfolk
Updated On: 06/02/2007

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