Anyone who has ever tried to trace their family history knows just how difficult it can be to find the records sometimes. Early families kept their records mostly in the family Bible, or some other type of record keeping book, and if the records weren’t kept where they were safe, or where the next generation knew to look for them, they were often lost. It seems that some nations were more ahead of the pack when it came to registering the people…where it was for a good purpose or not. Later it was only churches that kept records of these things.
The Bible tells us in Luke 2:1-5, “And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.” In many way, I suppose it was from this point on that the Romans and Jews began to keep such clear records, although, according to the Bible and the lineage of Jesus told there, the Jews had kept very clear records before that. It was clear record keeping of this type that made it possible for families to know their heritage.
As I have searched for my own ancestors, I have found that in more modern times, such as the 1000 to 1700s, the record keeping was not so good. I don’t know if people were just more lax about it, or if there seemed to be no good place to store these things. I could also be that in cases where good records were kept, fire, flood, or some other natural disaster destroyed them later on. I find that to be such a sad state of affairs, because it can put up a wall between the genealogical researcher and the valuable information they are searching for.
I guess I’m not the only person to ever feel that way, because on this day, July 1, 1837, England and Wales established the Civil Registration system to record births, marriages, and deaths. It is that same system that is used in Ancestry.com to provide valuable records used by genealogical researchers to this day. Of course, in the early days, the records were stored in volume after volume in some dusty corner of a courthouse or something. It was very hard to research family through that avenue, but with the invention of the internet, and the transfer of those records to it, the civil registration of births, marriages, and deaths has opened up many new doors in genealogical research.