Review and Refresh

Presentations at IAJGS are wonderful.  Today, I went to 3 sessions all of which looked at records that I am very familiar with.

So why, you might ask did I do that?  The presenters in each case were all experts in the types of records they were discussing.  As in so much else in life, reviewing things with which you are already familiar serves a purpose – it gives you a fresh perspective.  For the most part, today’s discussions focused on vital records.  And no, a birth record is not a birth record.

In other words, all birth records are not the same.  In different years and in different places birth records look different.  I spend a fair amount of time in the New York City Municipal Archives, and even New York City birth records have changed through time.  Eastern Europe has changed borders many, many times.  The area we call Ukraine today not too long ago had much different borders and those borders were not stable for extended periods of time.  Different political entities had different rules about the data on birth records.

What did today’s discussions give me a fresh perspective on?  They reminded me that I need to really examine the comments section on the records (and not just birth but other vital records) and get those comments translated, not just rely on my own understanding.  They also reminded me to look closely at the birth places of the parents of the new born.

Some of the comments can open the door to new areas of research, and that information, along with the birth places of the parents can often give us the tip of the iceberg in what might become a very interesting family story.

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