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Lesson 6: Government Records

The variety of records available in foreign countries is generally not as broad as in North America, and accessing those records is not as easy. However, this is no reason not to learn about a number of other foreign records which still have some value in your search for an immigrant's origins. Even more so than in North America, most foreign genealogical records were created by some level of government, with religious records (church and synagogue) being the major exception. Major, nationwide records, such as census and vital records, as well as records documenting emigration were the subject of recent lessons.

The remaining government records of value were often kept by local governments, and, since they do not focus on emigrants (as do departure lists, for example), they may be overlooked in your search for your immigrant's origins. However, before your immigrants left their home country, they may have been recorded in a number of records, just as happened while they were living in their new country.

Remember when using these records that a person with the same name as your immigrant is not necessarily the same person. The vast majority of persons in the old country did not emigrate, so the vast majority of persons in these records are not emigrants either. This reinforces one of the basic principles discussed in some of the very first lessons: You must have sufficient information about the immigrant. Now is the time that information becomes invaluable.

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