Archive for September, 2013

After the Family Reunion

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

So you went to the family reunion this summer — maybe more than one. You spent enough time with people there to remember why we have family reunions, and why we have them only once every year or two. Now what?

Now I’m in trouble, that’s what, because you think I just insulted my family — and they might agree with you. Allow me to explain.

I don’t mean to suggest that I dislike my relatives. I like them. I enjoy them. They’re good, interesting people. Just as important, the reunion pot-luck fare is always abundant and superb. But, even though the reunion I attend almost every year lasts only a few hours, with preparations and travel it occupies two or three days, because it’s 275 miles away. For some who attend regularly, it’s much further and longer. That’s a significant chunk of summer.

My mother and her seven Babcock siblings

Decades after this photo was taken of my mother and her seven siblings, some of them are still around to show up at the annual family reunion.

I actually enjoy the travel, and the reunion itself is fun. But I don’t think the reunion’s only purpose is itself. If it doesn’t help knit the family together during the year, then it’s just a long way to drive for a great meal, plus some chatter that could as easily be had on Facebook (if we could get most of the family on Facebook).

(more…)

Birth Certificates and 27 Other Places to Look for Birth Data

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

When you explore your genealogy, one of the first things you need to know about a person is the birth date. The birthplace helps too, of course. There are many places to find this information, and most of them have additional useful data. We’ll look at some of the possibilities here.

birth records

A birth certificate, a birth register, and a birth announcement

BIRTH CERTIFICATES

In the modern world the official birth record is the birth certificate or “certificate of live birth.” As such, it is a “primary source,” usually created near the time of the birth, by someone who was present. It may come in a different forms, such as a short form for public information and a long form with more details. Its availability and the information it contains vary widely from place to place and in different times, but it’s common to find much more than the name, date, and place. Here’s a partial list of what else you might see:

  • the baby’s gender
  • parents’ names, including the mother’s maiden name
  • parents’ ages or birth dates (or approximate years of birth)
  • parents’ birthplaces
  • parents’ address (which can lead you to census records)
  • information about the baby’s siblings
  • parents’ occupations
  • grandparents’ names
  • the baby’s race
  • the family’s religious affiliation

In some cases, birth certificates may be corrected or amended years later to show legal name changes or even, in some jurisdictions, gender changes. Sooner or later, you’ll also encounter “delayed registrations,” which are birth certificates created long after the birth and on the basis of other evidence.
(more…)