Prepared by Elisabeth Lindsay.
The word survey means to look over carefully, to inspect, or gather information from a sampling of individuals or data. There are many types of surveys relevant to genealogy: the survey of land, the survey of a cemetery, the survey of populations (such as the census), and the survey sources, among others.
The survey of sources is an important step in genealogy and may be called for at various times during the research process. The census is itself a survey, but doing a census survey suggests following a single family over as many census years it can be found. Conducting a local area surveymeans reviewing what sources are available for a particular community within a particular time frame. Land surveys can be used to determine exactly what parcels of land were owned and where. Today, that information can be used by GPS system to zero in land owned by ancestors. Cemetery surveys, typically conducted by volunteers, seek to identify -- and often photograph, cemetery headstones and graves. Some census surveys go the extra mile in researching cemetery records to identify unmarked graves. Online cemetery surveys. although considered a secondary source, are an invaluable resource for genealogists.