My Vital Documents .. An Inventory

Recently I have been discussing sources, citations and documentation in GenDetective, and this column will conclude the series.  The third pillar in our document/proof assembly is the documents, and in particular our vital documents.  In general, our three genealogy pillars breakdown along these lines:

  • Sources tell us where we found something (book, microfilm, newspaper, cemetery)
  • Citations tell us where in the source we found something
  • The documentation (multimedia files) is a record of the information found in the source at the cited location

What are the vital documents?  Those documents that we gather from a government agency, the ones that provide us with much sought-after proof about our relatives.  They include:

  • birth certificates
  • death certificates
  • marriage certificates and licenses
  • probate records
  • property (assets & deeds) records

In lieu of an actual birth or death certificate we seek a register entry, a birth or death recorded in a county or town government book or a baptismal certificate from a church.  Many genealogists maintain an inventory of the documents we have secured in spreadsheet, identifying the records that we still need to send money to a government agency to secure.

In GenDetectve with the press of a button you can get a listing of all of the vital documents you have acquired.

My Vital Documents

My Vital Documents

What do each of those little squares mean?

  • Check – I have the document!
  • Empty square – I do not have the document
  • Gray filled in square – I have a reference to an index that points to the document, but not the actual document.

Which of those vital documents can you inventory with this report?

  1. Birth certificates/registrations
  2. Birth indexes (baptismal index)
  3. Death certificates
  4. Death indexes (SSDI, or cemetery markers)
  5. Marriage licenses
  6. Marriage indexes (newspaper notices)
  7. Probate records, including wills
  8. Property (land records, assets, etc)
  9. Cemetery Markers, for those who track located grave sites using a source instead of an event

How do you make this all work?  In GenDetective we identify the sources that correspond to the different documents, and voila!  This is so exciting and I am simply thrilled that I no longer have to maintain a spreadsheet to track the documents I have and which ones I still need to order!

Are there any other certificates or documents that you track in an inventory that you would like to see included in this report?

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5 Responses to My Vital Documents .. An Inventory

  1. dearmyrtle says:

    Parish registers for birth, marriage and burials, obituaries.

    • GenDetective says:

      Would the Parish Register be a source document?

      • Rosemary says:

        I define a Parish Register as a source document. They are generally large books where each baptism, banns, marriage, burial, etc was supposed to be written in date order. I feel I’ve struck gold when I can find an image of a relevant page online.

      • GenDetective says:

        This report runs and uses your sources as you have classified them. Some sources are easy to identify: a state or national birth certificate would be identified as a birth certificate source. A county or state death certificate would be identified as a death certificate source. A source identified as a birth or death certificate would be used to indicate the source document has been located (ie. a copy of which is in your possession). Any marriage index would be defined as an index, since it is not actually a certificate, just an index entry for the marriage. Ditto a birth or death index. For time period where a baptismal source is used as the substitute for a birth certificate(there is no other legal/gov’t source available), then you would identify the baptismal document source as a birth substitute. During a time period where a legal alternative exists, you would identify a baptismal certificate source as a birth index item. The same would apply to a burial record or a cemetery marker.

        Personally, I define a located cemetery marker as a death index; it is closer timewise and therefore more likely to be accurate for a death event over a birth event. Think of this process as one akin to apply to a lineage society for membership. When a legal document exists, that is the preferred document. When a government document doesn’t exist, we substitute acceptable, alternative source documents. Since the goal of the report is to identify the inventory of documents (proof) you have to support the birth, death, marriage, and other documents, it is up to your descretion as to how you chose to classify each source. Keep in mind we are identifying the relevant sources to help us identify the inventory of documents we have and those we need to pull or locate. So, we need to choose carefully how we identify our sources; this is the overall source, not each individual citation, making it a fairly quick and painless process .. as long as we accurately titled our sources 🙂

  2. Pingback: The Family Tree Do Over | GenDetective

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