Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Part 2 of The Genealogy Reference Desk Institute

Please see part 1 of this series.

The second session of the Genealogy Reference Desk Institute was "An Overview of American Colonial Records" by David Dearborn, staff genealogist at the NEHGS and Fellow, American Society of Genealogists.

David began the presentation by telling us the cardinal rule, "Colonial records were not created for the benefit of 21st century genealogists."  A rule that needs to be remembered for all records, in my opinion, not just those of the colonial time period.

What I learned most about these records is that it is important to learn about the area one is researching, as every area is different and borders changed drastically over time.  Towns were invented in the colonies.  Prior to this, there were ecclesiastical parishes, manors, et cetera, in England, but not a governmental area without a religious basis.

The earlier back your ancestry is in the colonies, the easier it is to find information for a few reasons.  First, there were few people here, so it is relatively easy to follow them.  Second, land records were very well kept and most people owned land.

My ancestors did not immigrate until long after the colonial period, but it was interesting to hear about research strategies.  David also handed out a reading list with many books and articles I will be seeking out.

I will be discussing the third session tomorrow and it was a fantastic one!

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