Of course, not all records which mention immigrants identify
the persons as immigrants, and only rarely do they actually mention the
name of the immigrant's foreign home. However, as we have seen throughout
these lessons, any information about an immigrant is an important piece
of the puzzle that will help identify the ancestral home.
Not all the persons mentioned in these records were immigrants.
Since civil records may include any persons who lived in a community,
the later the records were made in the Colonial Era, the higher percentage
of non-immigrants will appear in the records. This simply reflects the
fact that, after a 100 years or more, most of the population was not immigrants,
but rather the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of earlier
Civil Affairs and Records in Colonial Life
Outside of the family, life in Colonial American revolved
around the church and the community. At some times, and in some places,
the church was the community. However, even early in North America, local
government became secular, with its own officers, duties, responsibilities,
and records (although it may have supported one specific denomination).
Most families participated, to some degree, in certain civil aspects of
the community. Young men served in the militia. Older men:
Bought and sold land
Served on juries
Were called as witnesses in court actions
Took their neighbors to court
Were taken to court by their neighbors.
All of these events, and many others, were recorded by
the civil authorities. At first the colony was the community. As each
colony grew in population, it established counties, with local officers
and judges. Immigrant ancestors were as likely as any other resident to
appear in these records.