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(Vital Records of Each State...: - modified code for columns in order to work with smaller mobile screens. Removed flags and changed headers for consistency.)
 
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=== Introduction  ===
+
== Introduction  ==
  
 
The practice of recording vital statistics developed slowly in the United States. Early birth, marriage and death information was sometimes recorded in brief entries in register books until the twentieth century, when it became more common to create certificates. Some town clerks in colonial America (especially New England) recorded vital information, but these records are incomplete. The federal government has not registered vital records, except for Americans born outside the country who were recorded in embassy or consulate records.  
 
The practice of recording vital statistics developed slowly in the United States. Early birth, marriage and death information was sometimes recorded in brief entries in register books until the twentieth century, when it became more common to create certificates. Some town clerks in colonial America (especially New England) recorded vital information, but these records are incomplete. The federal government has not registered vital records, except for Americans born outside the country who were recorded in embassy or consulate records.  
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Each state eventually developed its own laws and created a statewide registration system. Unfortunately, these records do not exist until the early 1900's in most states. Local offices did not always comply immediately with the registration laws. Within 20 years after registration laws were enacted, most states were recording at least 90 percent of the births and deaths. To learn more about the creation of civil records and the regional differences go to the [[United States Civil Records|United States Civil Records]] page.
 
Each state eventually developed its own laws and created a statewide registration system. Unfortunately, these records do not exist until the early 1900's in most states. Local offices did not always comply immediately with the registration laws. Within 20 years after registration laws were enacted, most states were recording at least 90 percent of the births and deaths. To learn more about the creation of civil records and the regional differences go to the [[United States Civil Records|United States Civil Records]] page.
  
=== Why Use Vital Records?  ===
+
== Why Use Vital Records?  ==
 
{|
 
{|
 
|-
 
|-
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See ''{{LearningCenter2|16|United States Vital Records}}'' in the FamilySearch Learning Center.<br>
 
See ''{{LearningCenter2|16|United States Vital Records}}'' in the FamilySearch Learning Center.<br>
  
=== Quick Links  ===
+
== Quick Links  ==
  
 
*[http://www.genealogyinc.com/ordervitalcertificate/ Archives.com]. Service for ordering Birth, marriage, Divorce and Death Certificates.  
 
*[http://www.genealogyinc.com/ordervitalcertificate/ Archives.com]. Service for ordering Birth, marriage, Divorce and Death Certificates.  
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*[[United States Deaths and Burials - FamilySearch Historical Records]]
 
*[[United States Deaths and Burials - FamilySearch Historical Records]]
  
=== Vital Records of Each State ===
+
== Vital Records of Each State ==
  
{| width="800" cellspacing="1" cellpadding="1" class="FCK__ShowTableBorders"
+
{|  
 
|-
 
|-
| valign="top" align="left" |
+
<ul class="column-spacing-halfscreen" style="padding-right:5px; width:600px;">
*[[Image:Alabama flag.png|border|22x15px|Alabama flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Alabama Birth, Marriage, and Death Records|Alabama]]  
+
  <li>[[Alabama Birth, Marriage, and Death Records|Alabama]]</li>
*[[Image:Alaska flag.png|border|22x15px|Alaska flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Alaska Vital Records|Alaska]]  
+
  <li>[[Alaska Vital Records|Alaska]]</li>
*[[Image:Arizona flag.png|border|22x15px|Arizona flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Arizona Birth, Marriage and Death Records|Arizona]]  
+
  <li>[[Arizona Birth, Marriage and Death Records|Arizona]]</li>
*[[Image:Arkansas flag.png|border|22x15px|Arkansas flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Arkansas Vital Records|Arkansas]]  
+
  <li>[[Arkansas Vital Records|Arkansas]]</li>
*[[Image:California flag.png|border|22x15px|California flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[California Vital Records|California]]  
+
  <li>[[California Vital Records|California]]</li>
*[[Image:Colorado flag.png|border|22x15px|Colorado flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Colorado Vital Records|Colorado]]  
+
  <li>[[Colorado Vital Records|Colorado]]</li>
*[[Image:Connecticut flag.png|border|22x13px|Connecticut flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Connecticut Vital Records|Connecticut]]  
+
  <li>[[Connecticut Vital Records|Connecticut]]</li>
*[[Image:Delaware flag.png|border|22x15px|Delaware flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Delaware Vital Records|Delaware]]  
+
  <li>[[Delaware Vital Records|Delaware]]</li>
*[[Image:District of Columbia flag.png|border|22x11px|District of Columbia flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[District of Columbia Vital Records|District of Columbia]]  
+
  <li>[[District of Columbia Vital Records|District of Columbia]]</li>
*[[Image:Florida flag.png|border|22x15px|Florida flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Florida Vital Records|Florida]]  
+
  <li>[[Florida Vital Records|Florida]]</li>
*[[Image:Georgia flag.png|border|22x14px|Georgia flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Georgia Vital Records|Georgia]]  
+
  <li>[[Georgia Vital Records|Georgia]]</li>
*[[Image:Hawaii flag.png|border|22x11px|Hawaii flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Hawaii Vital Records|Hawaii]]  
+
  <li>[[Hawaii Vital Records|Hawaii]]</li>
*[[Image:Idaho flag.png|border|22x18px|Idaho flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Idaho Vital Records|Idaho]]  
+
  <li>[[Idaho Vital Records|Idaho]]</li>
*[[Image:Illinois flag.png|border|22x13px|Illinois flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Illinois Vital Records|Illinois]]  
+
  <li>[[Illinois Vital Records|Illinois]]</li>
*[[Image:Indiana flag.png|border|22x15px|Indiana flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Indiana Vital Records|Indiana]]  
+
  <li>[[Indiana Vital Records|Indiana]]</li>
*[[Image:Iowa flag.png|border|22x15px|Iowa flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Iowa Vital Records|Iowa]]  
+
  <li>[[Iowa Vital Records|Iowa]]</li>
*[[Image:Kansas flag.png|border|22x13px|Kansas flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Kansas Vital Records|Kansas]]
+
  <li>[[Kansas Vital Records|Kansas]]</li>
 +
  <li>[[Kentucky Vital Records|Kentucky]]</li>
 +
  <li>[[Louisiana Vital Records|Louisiana]]</li>
 +
  <li>[[Maine Vital Records|Maine]]</li>
 +
  <li>[[Maryland Vital Records|Maryland]]</li>
 +
  <li>[[Massachusetts Vital Records|Massachusetts]]</li>
 +
  <li>[[Michigan Vital Records|Michigan]]</li>
 +
  <li>[[Minnesota Vital Records|Minnesota]]</li>
 +
  <li>[[Mississippi Vital Records|Mississippi]]</li>
 +
  <li>[[Missouri Vital Records|Missouri]]</li>
 +
  <li>[[Montana Vital Records|Montana]]</li>
 +
  <li>[[Nebraska Vital Records|Nebraska]]</li>
 +
  <li>[[Nevada Vital Records|Nevada]]</li>
 +
  <li>[[New Hampshire Vital Records|New Hampshire]]</li>
 +
  <li>[[New Jersey Vital Records|New Jersey]]</li>
 +
  <li>[[New Mexico Vital Records|New Mexico]]</li>
 +
  <li>[[New York Vital Records|New York]]</li>
 +
  <li>[[North Carolina Vital Records|North Carolina]]</li>
 +
  <li>[[North Dakota Vital Records|North Dakota]]</li>
 +
  <li>[[Ohio Vital Records|Ohio]]</li>
 +
  <li>[[Oklahoma Vital Records|Oklahoma]]</li>
 +
  <li>[[Oregon Vital Records|Oregon]]</li>
 +
  <li>[[Pennsylvania Vital Records|Pennsylvania]]</li>
 +
  <li>[[Rhode Island Vital Records|Rhode Island]]</li>
 +
  <li>[[South Carolina Vital Records|South Carolina]]</li>
 +
  <li>[[South Dakota Vital Records|South Dakota]]</li>
 +
  <li>[[Tennessee Vital Records|Tennessee]]</li>
 +
  <li>[[Texas Vital Records|Texas]]</li>
 +
  <li>[[Utah Vital Records|Utah]]</li>
 +
  <li>[[Vermont Vital Records|Vermont]]</li>
 +
  <li>[[Virginia Vital Records|Virginia]]</li>
 +
  <li>[[Washington Vital Records|Washington]]</li>
 +
  <li>[[West Virginia Vital Records|West Virginia]]</li>
 +
  <li>[[Wisconsin Vital Records|Wisconsin]]</li>
 +
  <li>[[Wyoming Vital Records|Wyoming]]</li>
 +
</ul>
 +
|}
  
| valign="top" align="left" |
+
== Vital Records in U.S. Territories ==
*[[Image:Kentucky flag.png|border|22x15px|Kentucky flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Kentucky Vital Records|Kentucky]]
 
*[[Image:Louisiana flag.png|border|22x15px|Louisiana flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Louisiana Vital Records|Louisiana]]
 
*[[Image:Maine flag.png|border|22x15px|Maine flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Maine Vital Records|Maine]]
 
*[[Image:Maryland flag.png|border|22x15px|Maryland flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Maryland Vital Records|Maryland]]
 
*[[Image:Massachusetts flag.png|border|22x13px|Massachusetts flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Massachusetts Vital Records|Massachusetts]]
 
*[[Image:Michigan flag.png|border|22x15px|Michigan flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Michigan Vital Records|Michigan]]
 
*[[Image:Minnesota flag.png|border|22x14px|Minnesota flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Minnesota Vital Records|Minnesota]]
 
*[[Image:Mississippi flag.png|border|22x13px|Mississippi flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Mississippi Vital Records|Mississippi]]
 
*[[Image:Missouri flag.png|border|22x13px|Missouri flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Missouri Vital Records|Missouri]]
 
*[[Image:Montana flag.png|border|22x15px|Montana flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Montana Vital Records|Montana]]
 
*[[Image:Nebraska flag.png|border|22x13px|Nebraska flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Nebraska Vital Records|Nebraska]]
 
*[[Image:Nevada flag.png|border|22x15px|Nevada flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Nevada Vital Records|Nevada]]
 
*[[Image:New Hampshire flag.png|border|22x15px|New Hampshire flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[New Hampshire Vital Records|New Hampshire]]
 
*[[Image:New Jersey flag.png|border|22x15px|New Jersey flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[New Jersey Vital Records|New Jersey]]
 
*[[Image:New Mexico flag.png|border|22x15px|New Mexico flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[New Mexico Vital Records|New Mexico]]
 
*[[Image:New York flag.png|border|22x11px|New York flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[New York Vital Records|New York]]
 
*[[Image:North Carolina flag.png|border|22x15px|North Carolina flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[North Carolina Vital Records|North Carolina]]
 
  
| valign="top" align="left" |
+
=== Territories ===
*[[Image:North Dakota flag.png|border|22x17px|North Dakota flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[North Dakota Vital Records|North Dakota]]
 
*[[Image:Ohio flag.png|border|22x14px|Ohio flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Ohio Vital Records|Ohio]]
 
*[[Image:Oklahoma flag.png|border|22x15px|Oklahoma flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Oklahoma Vital Records|Oklahoma]]
 
*[[Image:Oregon flag.png|border|22x13px|Oregon flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Oregon Vital Records|Oregon]]
 
*[[Image:Pennsylvania flag.png|border|22x15px|Pennsylvania flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Pennsylvania Vital Records|Pennsylvania]]
 
*[[Image:Rhode Island flag.png|border|21x20px|Rhode Island flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Rhode Island Vital Records|Rhode Island]]
 
*[[Image:South Carolina flag.png|border|22x15px|South Carolina flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[South Carolina Vital Records|South Carolina]]
 
*[[Image:South Dakota flag.png|border|22x13px|South Dakota flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[South Dakota Vital Records|South Dakota]]
 
*[[Image:Tennessee flag.png|border|22x13px|Tennessee flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Tennessee Vital Records|Tennessee]]
 
*[[Image:Texas flag.png|border|22x15px|Texas flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Texas Vital Records|Texas]]
 
*[[Image:Utah flag.png|border|22x15px|Utah flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Utah Vital Records|Utah]]
 
*[[Image:Vermont flag.png|border|22x13px|Vermont flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Vermont Vital Records|Vermont]]
 
*[[Image:Virginia flag.png|border|22x15px|Virginia flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Virginia Vital Records|Virginia]]
 
*[[Image:Washington flag.png|border|22x13px|Washington flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Washington Vital Records|Washington]]
 
*[[Image:West Virginia flag.png|border|22x12px|West Virginia flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[West Virginia Vital Records|West Virginia]]
 
*[[Image:Wisconsin flag.png|border|22x15px|Wisconsin flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Wisconsin Vital Records|Wisconsin]]
 
*[[Image:Wyoming flag.png|border|22x15px|Wyoming flag.png]]&nbsp;&nbsp;[[Wyoming Vital Records|Wyoming]]
 
  
 +
{|
 +
|-
 +
<ul class="column-spacing-halfscreen" style="padding-right:5px; width: 600px;">
 +
<li>[[American Samoa Vital Records|American Samoa]]</li>
 +
<li>Guam</li>
 +
<li>Northern Mariana Islands</li>
 +
<li>[[Puerto Rico Civil Registration|Puerto Rico]]</li>
 +
<li>[[U.S. Virgin Islands Civil Registration|Virgin Islands]]</li>
 +
<ul>
 
|}
 
|}
  
=== Vital Records in U.S. Territories ===
+
=== Former Territories ===  
'''Territories'''<br>
+
{|
{| width="800" cellspacing="1" cellpadding="1"  class="FCK__ShowTableBorders"
 
|-
 
| valign="top" align="left" |
 
*[[Image:American Samoa flag.png|border|22x11px|American Samoa flag.png]] [[American Samoa Vital Records|American&nbsp;Samoa]]
 
*[[Image:Guam flag.png|border|22x13px|Guam flag.png]] Guam
 
 
 
| valign="top" align="left" |
 
*[[Image:Northern Mariana Islands flag.png|border|22x11px|Northern Mariana Islands flag.png]] Northern<br>Mariana Islands
 
 
 
| valign="top" align="left" |
 
*[[Image:Puerto Rico flag.png|border|22x15px|Puerto Rico flag.png]] [[Puerto Rico Civil Registration|Puerto Rico]]
 
*[[Image:Virgin Islands flag.png|border|22x14px|Virgin Islands flag.png]] [[U.S. Virgin Islands Civil Registration|Virgin&nbsp;Islands]]
 
 
 
|}
 
'''Former Territories'''<br>
 
{| width="900" cellspacing="1" cellpadding="1"  class="FCK__ShowTableBorders"
 
 
|-
 
|-
| valign="top" align="left" |
+
<ul class="column-spacing-halfscreen" style="padding-right:5px; width: 600px;">
*[[Image:Cuba flag.png|border|22x11px|Cuba flag.png]] Cuba  
+
<li>[[American Samoa Vital Records|American Samoa]]</li>
*[[Image:Marshall Islands flag.png|border|22x12px|Marshall Islands flag.png]] Marshall Islands
+
<li>Cuba</li>
 
+
<li>Marshall Islands</li>
| valign="top" align="left" |
+
<li>[[Federated States of Micronesia Civil Registration|Micronesia]]</li>
*[[Image:Micronesia, Federated States of, flag.png|border|22x12px|Micronesia, Federated States of, flag.png]] [[Federated States of Micronesia Civil Registration|Micronesia]]  
+
<li>Palau</li>
*[[Image:Palau flag.png|border|22x14px|Palau flag.png]] Palau
+
<li>[[Panama Canal Zone Vital Records|Panama Canal Zone]]</li>
 
+
<li>[[Philippines Civil Registration- Vital Records|Philippines]]</li>
| valign="top" align="left" |
+
<ul>
*[[Image:Panama canal zone flag.png|border|22x13px|Panama canal zone flag.png]] [[Panama Canal Zone Vital Records|Panama&nbsp;Canal&nbsp;Zone]]  
 
*[[Image:Philippines flag.png|border|22x11px|Philippines flag.png]] [[Philippines Civil Registration- Vital Records|Philippines]]
 
 
 
 
|}
 
|}
  
=== Search strategies  ===
+
== Search strategies  ==
  
==== Use Death-related records 1st  ====
+
=== Use Death-related records 1st  ===
  
 
Why might it be better to look for the death record of an ancestor first?  
 
Why might it be better to look for the death record of an ancestor first?  
Line 164: Line 156:
 
*Death records exist for many persons born before birth and marriage records began. Death records may contain birth and marriage information not available anywhere else.
 
*Death records exist for many persons born before birth and marriage records began. Death records may contain birth and marriage information not available anywhere else.
  
==== Analyze the record  ====
+
=== Analyze the record  ===
  
 
Ask yourself these questions to use the record effectively:  
 
Ask yourself these questions to use the record effectively:  
Line 177: Line 169:
 
*Does the information from the record fit with what you know about the family from other records? If it does not agree, it may have been miscopied by a clerk. Check your sources.
 
*Does the information from the record fit with what you know about the family from other records? If it does not agree, it may have been miscopied by a clerk. Check your sources.
  
==== Why can't I find a vital record?  ====
+
=== Why can't I find a vital record?  ===
  
 
Some possible reasons are:  
 
Some possible reasons are:  
Line 206: Line 198:
 
*[[Illegitimacy in the United States|Illegitimacy in the United States]]
 
*[[Illegitimacy in the United States|Illegitimacy in the United States]]
  
=== Key Reference Sources  ===
+
== Key Reference Sources  ==
  
 
*Leonard, Barry. ''Where to Write for Vital Records: Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Divorces''Published by DIANE Publishing, 2007.&nbsp; 47 pages. Full text available at [http://books.google.com/books?id=jx8HDU6V700C Google Books]. [http://www.worldcat.org/isbn/1422314820 Worldcat].
 
*Leonard, Barry. ''Where to Write for Vital Records: Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Divorces''Published by DIANE Publishing, 2007.&nbsp; 47 pages. Full text available at [http://books.google.com/books?id=jx8HDU6V700C Google Books]. [http://www.worldcat.org/isbn/1422314820 Worldcat].
Line 212: Line 204:
 
*Szucs, Loretto Dennis, Luebking, Sandra Hargreaves. ''The source: a guidebook of American genealogy''. Edition: 3, illustrated. Published by Ancestry Publishing, 2005. 965 pages. [http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/64084569 Worldcat] {{FHL|776716|title-id}} Book.
 
*Szucs, Loretto Dennis, Luebking, Sandra Hargreaves. ''The source: a guidebook of American genealogy''. Edition: 3, illustrated. Published by Ancestry Publishing, 2005. 965 pages. [http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/64084569 Worldcat] {{FHL|776716|title-id}} Book.
  
=== Family History Library Records  ===
+
== Family History Library Records  ==
  
 
The [[Family History Library|Family History Library]] has copies of many state vital records. You may find further information about vital records and their availability in the wiki pages available for each state. Click on the state links in the table above&nbsp;for direct&nbsp;access individual state wiki pages concerning vital records. &nbsp;  
 
The [[Family History Library|Family History Library]] has copies of many state vital records. You may find further information about vital records and their availability in the wiki pages available for each state. Click on the state links in the table above&nbsp;for direct&nbsp;access individual state wiki pages concerning vital records. &nbsp;  
Line 235: Line 227:
 
The [[Family History Library|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.<br>  
 
The [[Family History Library|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.<br>  
  
'''Wiki articles containing online collections are found at:'''
+
=== Wiki articles containing online collections are found at: ===
  
 
*[[United States Births and Christenings - FamilySearch Historical Records|United States Births and Christenings - FamilySearch Historical Records]]  
 
*[[United States Births and Christenings - FamilySearch Historical Records|United States Births and Christenings - FamilySearch Historical Records]]  

Latest revision as of 11:21, 2 December 2019

United States Wiki Topics
United States flag.png
Beginning Research
Record Types
United States Background
Ethnicity
Local Research Resources


US Vital Records
Topics
Substitute Records
Online Classes


Beginners' Corner[edit | edit source]

What are vital records?
What time periods do they cover?
What can I find in them?
How do I access them?
Search strategies

For a more complete beginning introduction to vital records, see U.S. Vital Records Class Handout.

   How to Find Information about United States Ancestors
 

1. Birth Information
2. Marriage Information
3. Death Information

Introduction[edit | edit source]

The practice of recording vital statistics developed slowly in the United States. Early birth, marriage and death information was sometimes recorded in brief entries in register books until the twentieth century, when it became more common to create certificates. Some town clerks in colonial America (especially New England) recorded vital information, but these records are incomplete. The federal government has not registered vital records, except for Americans born outside the country who were recorded in embassy or consulate records.

Records of marriages were generally the first vital records kept in a locality. In most states, the counties or towns began recording marriages as soon as they were established. Whether the marriage ceremony was performed by a civil or a church authority, local laws required the marriage to be recorded in civil records.

The local health departments of a few large cities began recording births and deaths by the mid-1800s. For example, records exist for Baltimore (from 1875), Boston (from 1639), New Orleans (from 1790), New York (from 1847), and Philadelphia (from 1860). The early records are usually incomplete. Many counties in the East and Midwest were recording births and deaths by the late 1800's.

Each state eventually developed its own laws and created a statewide registration system. Unfortunately, these records do not exist until the early 1900's in most states. Local offices did not always comply immediately with the registration laws. Within 20 years after registration laws were enacted, most states were recording at least 90 percent of the births and deaths. To learn more about the creation of civil records and the regional differences go to the United States Civil Records page.

Why Use Vital Records?[edit | edit source]

  • Provide birth date
  • Provide death date
  • Provide names of family members
  • Uniquely identify a person

Vital Records Collage.JPG

See United States Vital Records in the FamilySearch Learning Center.

Quick Links[edit | edit source]

Vital Records of Each State[edit | edit source]

Vital Records in U.S. Territories[edit | edit source]

Territories[edit | edit source]

Former Territories[edit | edit source]

Search strategies[edit | edit source]

Use Death-related records 1st[edit | edit source]

Why might it be better to look for the death record of an ancestor first?

  • Your ancestor's death is more recent than his birth or marriage. It is usually best to work from recent events backward, from the known to the unknown.
  • The death record usually tells you where your ancestor last lived. Then you can look for other records for that place.
  • The death record may lead you to other documents created in connection with the death, such as the burial and probate of your ancestor. Those records may give new family information.
  • Death records may contain birth, marriage, and burial information as well as death information.
  • Death records exist for many persons born before birth and marriage records began. Death records may contain birth and marriage information not available anywhere else.

Analyze the record[edit | edit source]

Ask yourself these questions to use the record effectively:

  • What dates does this record provide?
  • What ages are given?
  • What places are mentioned in this record?
  • Are parents or a spouse named?
  • Are witnesses to the event related to the family?
  • Who provided the information? Was that person someone who knew the family well?
  • Does the death record give the name of the cemetery or funeral home? You may be able to search those records for more information.
  • Does the information from the record fit with what you know about the family from other records? If it does not agree, it may have been miscopied by a clerk. Check your sources.

Why can't I find a vital record?[edit | edit source]

Some possible reasons are:

  • Your ancestor might have lived in a different place from where you were looking for the birth, marriage, or death.
  • Your ancestor may have used a nickname or a different surname, or the registrar spelled the name wrong. See Name Variations in United States Indexes and Records.
  • Your ancestor might have lived at a slightly different time from the years you were looking.
  • Not every birth, marriage, or death was registered.

You can check:

  • The information you have for possible errors.
  • If your ancestor might have lived in a different place.
  • If your ancestor might have lived at a slightly different time.
  • If your ancestor's name might be recorded under:
  1. A different spelling.
  2. A nickname.
  3. An Americanization of a foreign surname.

Sometimes vital records were not recorded for various reasons, even when required.

For other ideas see:

Key Reference Sources[edit | edit source]

  • Leonard, Barry. Where to Write for Vital Records: Births, Deaths, Marriages, and DivorcesPublished by DIANE Publishing, 2007.  47 pages. Full text available at Google Books. Worldcat.
  • Szucs, Loretto Dennis, Luebking, Sandra Hargreaves. The source: a guidebook of American genealogy. Edition: 3, illustrated. Published by Ancestry Publishing, 2005. 965 pages. Worldcat FHL Collection Book.

Family History Library Records[edit | edit source]

The Family History Library has copies of many state vital records. You may find further information about vital records and their availability in the wiki pages available for each state. Click on the state links in the table above for direct access individual state wiki pages concerning vital records.  

Even when vital records can be found in government offices, not all of these records are included in the Family History Library collection. There are several factors which affect the availability of vital records.  Records may be missing from the Family History Library collection if

  • a record was never kept
  • was not available in the courthouse at the time of microfilming
  • was not microfilmed
  • is restricted from public access by the laws of the state

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 Place Search of the FamilySearch Catalog under each of the following approaches:

[STATE] - VITAL RECORDS
[STATE], [COUNTY] - VITAL RECORDS
[STATE], [COUNTY], [TOWN] - VITAL RECORDS

In addition, some of the vital records available at the Family History Library are now indexed and digitized at Historical Record Collections. Browse the available collections for birth, marriage and death records of any given state.  Most vital records are indexed and should be searched through the index.  Some collections are not indexed and are available only as digitized record groups to browse. See each individual state's vital records wiki page for hints concerning RecordSearch collections pertaining to that state.

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.

Wiki articles containing online collections are found at:[edit | edit source]

To access available information, first log into FamilySearch.