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What is a Record Group?

Have you ever thought about the many record groups we use in genealogy? What is a record group anyway? Basically, it is a category of records kept by record officials for a specific purpose. (And to tell you the truth, rarely is that purpose to help genealogists.) There are many record groups which contain information useful for identifying and linking our ancestors.

Some record groups form the very foundation of our research. We could think of them as the cement flooring, for example. These are solid pieces of evidence about your family from your personal eyewitness accounts, family records such as Bibles, diaries, birth, death, and marriage records, obituaries, insurance papers, etc. You "know" these are your "family." You are encouraged to gather as many existing clues from this record group that you can so you don't start on a weak foundation. Weak foundations are those which build on the oral histories of others without any evidence.

Now you need to add walls, supportive beams, and structure to your foundation. This means you need outside sources to add support to what you already know. One outside source is the record group known as "census records." We will discuss just how supportive they are in subsequent lessons. Birth, marriage, and death certificates not in the family's possession also provide support to family information. In countries outside the U.S., these outside-the-family sources are referred to as "Civil Registrations." And just as you can use different types of wood or metal to build your walls based on available materials in each country, Civil Registrations differ in each country by time periods and regions as you build upon your genealogy foundation.

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