Guide to Researching Birth Marriage and Death Records
Hypothetical example for searching for Iwan Iwanchuk’s ancestors.
Step One: Starting with the Birth Records – You know that Iwan was born in 1880. The church books containing the birth records will be in chronological order. Start with the first entry for January 1880 and search the subsequent entries until you find the entry for Iwan Iwanchuk. The entry will probably be in a Polish version of Latin. It will be found under Joannes (Latin for John, not Joanne) Iwanczuk (Polish spelling for Iwanchuk).
Note down every item on a Birth Records Form. (See) In particular, note down the House Number “Numerus Domis.” This will help keep you focused on your family ancestors and not someone else with a same name (such as a cousin). So if the house was #16 you would be on the lookout for that number in subsequent pages. The Birth Records will indicate Iwan’s parent’s names and possibly his grandparents. The record indicates that Iwan (Joannes) was born to Petro (Peter) and Maria, daughter of Alexander and Helena Alexanderczuk.
Next, check the records, forward and backward to see who else was born in house #16. This will tell you who Iwan’s siblings were. When you have exhausted the sibling search, you are ready to go to the next step.
Step Two: Checking the Marriage Records – If Iwan’s oldest sibling was born in 1876, you would check the Marriage Records from 1876 backwards. You find that Petro and Maria were married in 1874. Again note down all the particulars and check to see if house # 16 was the address for Petro. Also note down the house number for Maria. Petro was 20 and Maria was 17 when they were married. Now you know their birth years. Petro was born in 1854 and Maria was born in 1857. The marriage records will also name their parents.
Step Three: Back to the Birth Records – Now you search through the years 1854 for Petro and 1857 for Maria, as in step one. Continue this process until you complete going through the records for the Iwan Iwanchuk line.
Next focus on following the same process for Iwan’s mother Maria Alexanderczuk, by locating her parent’s marriage information, followed by 2
their birth information and so on. Work through one family line at a time, otherwise it can become confusing doing a number of family lines simultaneously. But be sure to keep track of the house numbers, to keep you grounded to the correct family, otherwise you will be doing someone else’s genealogy, unless that’s your goal and you have sufficient time.
Final Step: Going through the Death Records – Now that you have noted down the house numbers for each family line and have completed the birth and marriage recording, you should go through the Death Records.
Start with the most recent date in the volume and work backwards in time. Check the house numbers which correspond to those you noted and log down everyone who died in those houses, their age at death and their cause of death. In most cases, the cause would be in general terms such as, Naturalis (Natural) Ordinaria (Ordinary) Variola (Various)
You will, on occasion get a more detailed description. Carefully note down the terms and you can later look them up in a Latin Dictionary or at a site such as:
In doing a search I discovered one relative who died in 1792, at the ripe old age of 107. This means that this man was born in 1685, pretty well as far back as one can go with the records. I guess they didn’t have transfatty food in those days.
What if I only have Birth Records to consult?
If you only have access to Birth Records, then all you can do is work backwards from Iwan’s birth date. Here you follow the Step One process, using the house number to keep you anchored. With some digging, you will be able to uncover the birth records for Iwan’s parents and Maria’s parents, except that it will be a little more difficult, not having their age to work with from the Marriage Records. Again, work through on family line at a time.