Locating United States Vital Records

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How to Locate a Record[edit | edit source]

Birth, marriage, divorce, and death records may be obtained by contacting or visiting state offices of vital records or the appropriate clerk's office in a town or county courthouse. Genealogical societies, historical societies, and state archives may also have copies or transcripts. To protect the rights of privacy of living persons, most modern records have restrictions on their use and access. Check the following sources for current addresses and fees for obtaining vital records:

  • The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a page titled Where to Write for Vital Records. It has links to each U.S. state with the latest information about obtaining birth, marriage, death, and divorce information. Click here.

Another helpful source of current fee information is:

  • International Vital Records Handbook [1]This includes samples of application forms that can be sent to state offices to request copies of vital records. It also provides telephone ordering numbers for most offices. Payment by bank card is generally accepted.
  • The source: a guidebook of American genealogy [2]

How to Request a Record[edit | edit source]

After deciding who has jurisdiction over the records for the time period you need, write a brief request to the proper office. Some offices will require that you submit a standard search application form. Send the following:

  • Check or money order for the search fee (search fees vary)
  • Full name and the sex of the person sought
  • Names of the parents, if known
  • Approximate date and place of the event
  • Your relationship to the person
  • Reason for the request (family history, medical, etc.)
  • Request for a photocopy of the complete original record

If your request is unsuccessful, search for duplicate records that may have been filed in a city, county, or state office.

This link provides for those direct access to individual state and territory information.

Online Requests[edit | edit source]

For states that now have free downloadable images of certificates for various states, go to FamilySearch Record Collection

Records at the Family History Library[edit | edit source]

The Family History Library has copies of many vital records, primarily those before 1920. However, if a record was never kept, was not available in the courthouse at the time of microfilming, was not microfilmed, or is restricted from public access by the laws of the state, the Family History Library does not have a copy. You may use the records at the library for your family research, but the library does not issue or certify certificates for living or deceased individuals.

Vital records can be found in the FamilySearch Catalog Places Search under each of the following approaches:


You can find further information about vital records in research pages available for each state on the wiki.

The Family History Library has statewide collections and special indexes of vital records for most states. The library has good collections of county vital records for several states.

Main Sources[edit | edit source]

Substitute Sources[edit | edit source]

Websites[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Kemp Thomas Jay. International Vital Records Handbook. 5th ed. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc.,2009. ISBM 9780806317939: 0806317930 Worldcat. FHL book 973 V24k 1994.
  2. Szucs, Loretto Dennis, Luebking, Sandra Hargreaves. The source: a guidebook of American genealogy. Edition: 3, illustrated. Published by Ancestry Publishing, 2005. ISBN 1593312776: 9781593312770. 965 pages. Worldcat