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National Resources
Records of persons who were neither royalty nor nobility began to be taken by governments in order to keep track of their citizens. (In most of Europe, for example, this started to take place in the 16th century.) As more of the population began to be recorded, there were sufficient records to follow a family using the paper trail they left behind.

As each person lived his or her life, the major events were documented with a license, permit or report which was sent to a local, regional or national office or archive. A genealogist locates copies of these records, wherever they have been stored, and rearranges the information about each person to discover family relationships and recreate a timeline of each person's life once again.

Records that are used in genealogy research include:
  • Adoption records
  • Baptism or christening records
  • Birth records
  • Cemetery records and tombstones
  • Census records
  • City directories and telephone directories
  • Death records
  • Diaries, personal letters and family Bibles
  • Emigration, immigration and naturalization records
  • Land and homestead records, deeds
  • Marriage and divorce records
  • Medical records
  • Military records
  • Newspaper columns
  • Obituaries
  • Occupational records
  • Oral history
  • Passports
  • Photographs
  • School records
  • Ship passenger lists
  • Social Security records
  • Tax records
  • Voter registration records
  • Wills and probate records
In most cultures, the name of a person includes in one way or another the family to which he or she belongs. This is called the family name, or surname. It is often also called the last name because, for most speakers of English, the family name comes after the given name (or names). However, this is not the case in all cultures.

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