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Sources play a key role in genealogy.


A source is anything (personal testimony, video recording, photograph, newspaper column, gravestone...) from which (genealogical) information can be derived.

It is useful to make the following distinctions between sources:

  1. Primary source: firsthand evidence of history, made at the time of the event. For example, diaries, certificates, newspapers, ...
  2. Secondary source: accounts of history based upon primary and secondary sources, offering commentary and analysis, such as history books, genealogical publications,...
  3. Tertiary source: a selection and compilation from primary and secondary sources. For example, library catalogues, bibliographies, ...

Most important genealogical sources

Official documents

Religious documents

Legal documents

  • Court cases
  • Notary documents
  • Probate records


  • Passenger lists
  • Record of landing


  • Census records
  • Property documents
  • Phone books
  • City directories

Final resting places

  • Cemetery list of interments
  • War graves


Personal Documents

  • Diaries
  • Correspondence
  • Household bills

Other Possible Sources

  • Bibles
  • Stories
  • Publications
  • Photos
  • Employment information
  • Medical records
  • DNA
  • Voter registration records
  • Genealogical society records
  • Oral recordings