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There were three major influences at work in the lives of our Colonial ancestors:

  • Family
  • Church
  • Community

In each community (village, town, county, etc.), the residents established a system of recording transactions and of governing themselves. The records generated by the various levels of government are called civil records and include such things as court and land records.

Perhaps the most overlooked records in genealogy are the court and other civil records left behind by our ancestors. This is equally true of the Colonial Era, yet they are often some of the few records available for the earliest years in North America. Every Colonial researcher, regardless of whether they are pursuing an immigrant or not, should make better use of these sources. However, they are especially useful for immigrants, for they help document the first few years of their existence in their new country.

Throughout the Colonial Era, a sizable percentage of the adults in the British Colonies were immigrants. In fact, during the first half of the seventeenth Century (1607 to about 1650), virtually all the adults in the colonies were immigrants. Therefore, any record that documents these persons documents an immigrant.

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