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Genealogical research exploits various sources, no matter what the background of the families being studied. Some of these sources are considered more reliable than others. Genealogists divide these into two broad categories:

1. Primary sources are the best, and normally most reliable. These records were created contemporaneously with the events they record. Foremost among these are the baptisms, marriages, and burials in the parish (church) records, and the births, marriages, and deaths registered by the civil authorities. Also of great utility are the census records and other sorts of official lists, as well as wills and deeds relating to property.

2. Secondary sources are everything that is not a primary source. Here are included all sorts of compilations, whether they deal with genealogy or history, and whether published as books or articles, or not at all. Because the information in these materials was set down some time after the events recorded, and because these materials may include a certain amount of interpretation, they are not considered as reliable as primary sources. If possible, verify secondary sources with primary sources.