State and County Vital Records

What are Vital Records

Vital records, as the title indicates, are generally associated with main life happenings that include births, marriages, and deaths.

These types of records tend to be primary resources of family history and genealogical information and facts, however, regrettably, official public record information (those retained by county and state government authorities), can be obtained just for quite recent time periods. Marriage records, the earliest of the vital records, is going to be evaluated to start with.

Civil governments have created records of births, marriages, and deaths. Records containing this information are commonly called “vital records” because they refer to critical events in a person’s life. These are the most important documents for genealogical research, but the births, marriages, and deaths of many people have never been recorded by civil authorities.

Keep in mind that modern-day vital records tend to be maintained by the state, however much older documents have been archived on the county level, if at all.

For a number of good reasons, lots of people basically didn’t care to legally file births and deaths to the authorities, consequently some facts are only able to be discovered by way of church baptismal, christening, or funeral documents.

Additionally, a fantastic supplementary resource with regard to details concerning marriages tend to be church publications that printed marriage banns-the announcements produced by places of worship prior to a wedding ceremony, giving notice to people who may have cause to protest.


Vital Records, in spite of their fairly recent origin, have become more and more helpful to the family tree researchers and definitely will become much more important as generations successfully pass.

However, they may have limitations, they can be employed successfully to help support or disprove established proof, to be able to make clear the course of upcoming research, and also to promote a far more complete family history.

How do I find a Birth Certificate

birth certificate

You will find about three fundamental kinds of birth certificates: 1) original; 2) amended; and 3) delayed.

“Delayed” documents aren’t regarded as principal records of birth simply because they had been frequently issued many years after the actual fact, commonly whenever an original certificate had not been filed, so when a person wanted to acquire a passport, or retirement benefits through Social Security.

There are many documents necessary for getting a delayed birth certificate, and the ones provided tend to be on the certificate itself. Regarding family history reasons, those documents ought to be searched for as the essential records of birth.

The majority of early birth records include hardly any biographical information and facts. For example, Common early New England town as well as church records provide limited information and facts past the name of the infant, date and location of birth, and fathers and mothers names. A few places stated just the name of the father.

Despite the fact that earlier birth records may be short of details, since the mid-nineteenth century birth records across the nation started to contain more details. Births weren’t generally registered through the early years of the united states existence, the documents which can be found could be the only resource for a date of birth on an particular person and should regularly be consulted.

Delayed birth certificates may also be essential vital registrations that you ought to take into account with regard to finding biographical details.

Once Social Security benefits had been implemented in 1937, people making claims for benefits were required to prove his or her birth certificate, whether or not the state of their birth required registration when they were born.

People who weren’t registered with state or county departments during the time of his or her birth usually sent applications for a delayed birth certificate. Getting passports, insurance, along with other benefits likewise require evidence of age.

Applications would typically include individual’s name, address, as well as date and place of birth; father’s name, race, and location of birth; and proof to back up the details given.

Proof could possibly be in the form of a baptismal record, Bible record, school file, affidavit from the attending doctor or even midwife, applications for insurance policies, birth certificate of children, or an affidavit from someone possessing specific information about the facts.

Delayed birth records are often recorded and listed separately from typical birth registrations, and it also might be recommended to ask for a different search for them.

How do I find a Marriage Certificate

marriage certificateDue to the significance of the lawful jurisdictions as well as control over property, nearly all states and counties started to keep track of marriages prior to births and deaths.

Registering of marriages as well as approving cases of divorce in the United States tend to be quasi-religious, quasi-legal societal functions which have been affected as a result of christian faith, custom, and also British law ever since the original colonial settlements.

Any successful genealogist requires a comprehensive knowledge of the following situations

  • jurisdictions in charge of maintaining this info,
  • the kinds of documents held by every single jurisdiction,
  • time periods where numerous kinds of records have been preserved,
  • situations unique to each and every colony and state that came up with the requirement for registering marriages along with divorces,
  • variables that created modifications in these registrations.

A problem is that often the U.S., unlike Great Britain as well as some Countries in Europe, doesn’t have any nationwide registration system.

Rather, marriage registration often is the responsibility of the individual states. Furthermore, marriage registration has never been evenly applied among the many states.

Before state registration requirements, towns throughout New England as well as counties around the country had been the main jurisdictions faced with preserving marriage record information. As a result, records will typically be identified dating from the time a town or county was established. A number of states for instance Pennsylvania and South Carolina, haven’t required subordinate jurisdictions to maintain marriage record information right up until current times.

The documenting of a marriage is a two stage procedure. Typically, two people make application for a license to get married, plus the applications are often filed loose among the other applications or perhaps in bound volumes.

Marriage returns are usually recorded when the marriage has occurred. The last mentioned document is the evidence of a marriage (not necessarily the license application).

Marriage applications tend to be completed by both the bride and groom and therefore commonly include a lot of family history information and facts.

They could list complete names of the groom and bride, his / her residences, ethnic backgrounds, ages, dates and locations of birth, prior marriages, vocations, and their fathers and mothers names, places of birth, and occupations.

Marriage certificates are issued by counties as soon as the wedding ceremony is finished. Even though the certificates generally have much less biographical information compared to the application, the name of the person officiating at the wedding often leads someone to faith based documents simply by disclosing the denomination.

The actual religious records, consequently, may possibly uncover the names regarding witnesses along with other helpful information and facts.

Early United states records occasionally consist of marriage bonds, which in turn functioned as a security for the potential children of the marriage.

A bond required a potential groom to pay the bond in the event that he were found to be a bigamist or imposer or in any manner ineligible to be able to contract a legitimate marriage. So long as the marriage ended up being lawful, the bond was void. Bonds typically include the groom’s name, name of the surety, the amount, and the date of the contract.

Marriage records are clearly the ideal prime source with regard to marriage facts, but they’re also superb supplementary resources for additional bits of information, like the ages of the bride and groom, the mothers and fathers names, and also the names of members of the family who could have acted as witnesses.

For more help in obtaining marriage dates, consider looking thru court public records, church records, newspapers, family paperwork and bibles, periodical directories, as well as the U.S. census.

History of Death Certificates

death certificateJust like marriage certificates, death certificates can assist with both the primary as well as secondary information and facts, which includes names of fathers and mothers along with husbands and wives.

Given that private information can without doubt not be given personally from the departed, pay special attention to the name and address of the person that completed the actual documents.

Early death records in the U.S. provide you with little more than the name of the deceased, the death date, and also the location of death.

Obituaries and cemetery, court, along with other records frequently supply additional information concerning the dead person compared to many official death records written prior to the last quarter of the 19th century.

By 1900 death records provided more information. They frequently contain:

  • the identity of the deceased
  • date, place, as well as cause of death
  • age at the time of death; place of birth
  • mothers and fathers names; profession
  • name of husband or wife
  • name of the individual providing the details
  • the informant’s relationship to the deceased
  • the name and address of the funeral director
  • and the location of burial.

Ethnic background shows up in some documents, as well as modern day death certificates usually will include a Social Security number.

Other way to find Vital Records

Family Records are the first sources to examine for vital statistics information. Bible records, baptismal records, school records, scrapbooks, membership records for religious, patriotic, or social societies, military records, insurance records, and a variety of other records can contain important birth and death information.

Some Libraries has collections of family Bibles that records births, marriages, and deaths. Vital statistics about slaves belonging to a household may be recorded since it was important for the owner to document the ages of slaves for tax purposes.

Census Schedules for the U.S. (1790-1930) are available online. Prior to the 1850 census, only the name of the head of the household is recorded. Other household members are identified by number and sex within certain age groups.

Beginning in 1850 and continuing into the twentieth century, individuals in the household are identified by name, and their ages at their last birthdays are recorded.

Information concerning place of birth of each individual and parents of each individual appear on subsequent schedules. Among the types of information recorded on the 1900-1920 schedules are the age of the individual and the month and year of birth.

Special census schedules called mortality schedules are available for the census years 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880.

These schedules record the names and causes of death of individuals who died in the twelve months prior to May or June of the census year. They are arranged by county, and except for the 1850 mortality schedules, there is no index to the records.

While post-1930 census records at present are not available for public use, information abstracted from the records is available from the U.S. Census Bureau. Details and forms are available at the U.S. Census Bureau web site.

Church Records provide some of the earliest information concerning births and deaths. Prior to the American Revolution, vital statistics of members were recorded in local parish registers.

Other religious denominations followed various practices concerning the recording of births, deaths, baptisms, and marriages.

Cemetery records and tombstone inscriptions also are helpful in establishing birth and death information. Researchers should contact local historical societies for information concerning records on, or the location of, family cemeteries.

Newspapers are a valuable source of birth and death information, especially after the 1850s when local papers became more numerous. Obituaries appear more frequently than birth announcements.

In most instances, there are no indexes to vital statistics recorded in local newspapers. Newspapers published by religious denominations are also are helpful.

County Records often contain copies of birth and death registers. In many instances, indexes are available for both births and deaths.

State Heath Department Records Availability

California19051949-1986 and 1998-19991962-19841905
Colorado1910see county Clerk of District Courtsee county Clerk of District Court1900
Connecticut18971897see Clerk of Superior Court1897
Delaware19381969see county Prothonotary1969
Georgia19191952see county Clerk of Superior Court1919
Indiana19071958County Clerk1900
Iowa18801880County Clerk of District Court1880
Louisiana1914Orleans Parish records only, See Parish Clerk of the CourtSee Parish Clerk of the Court1914
Maryland18981990, See County Clerk of Circuit Court1992, See County Clerk of Circuit Court1898
Massachusetts19161916Indexes Only, See County Registrar of Probate Court1916
Michigan186718671897, For earlier records, check with the County Clerk in county where divorce was granted.1867
Minnesota1900Check with the Local Registrar in county where license was issued.with the Court Administrator in county where divorce was granted.1908
Mississippi19121926-1938 and since 1942Indexes from January 1926, see County Chancery Clerk Court1912
Missouri1910, Certified copies of most Missouri birth certificates are also available from local county health department.1948, also available from the county recorder of deeds in which the marriage occurred.1948, also available from the county recorder of deeds in which the divorce occurred.1910
Montana1907indexes from 1943indexes from 19431907
Nevada1911None ( available from the County Recorder)None (available from the County Clerk)1911
New Hampshire1640164018081640
New Jersey19011901None (Copies of divorce decrees are available through the Superior Court of New Jersey Records Center)1901
New Mexico1920None (available from the County Clerk)County Clerk in the county where license was issued1920
New York188018801963 (also available from the County Clerk)1880
North Carolina1913196219581913
North Dakota1870 (1870-1920 incomplete)1958See County Clerk or Recorder1893
Ohio1908None (Available from County Probate Court)None (Available from County Clerk of Court)1954
Oklahoma1908 (Records prior to 1940 are incomplete)None (Available from County Clerk of Court)None (Available from County Clerk of Court)1908 (Records prior to 1940 are incomplete)
Pennsylvania1906None (Available from County Marriage License Clerks)None (Available from County Prothonotary)1906
Rhode Islandprior 100 years (records older than 100 years may be obtained from the city or town hall where the event happened or through the Rhode Island State Archives)prior 100 years (records older than 100 years may be obtained from the city or town hall where the event happened or through the Rhode Island State Archives)None (records for 1962 to present are located at the Family Court, Garrahy Judicial Complex. Divorce Records prior to 1962 are at the RI Supreme Court Judicial Records Center)prior 50 years (records older than 50 years may be obtained from the city or town hall where the event happened or through the Rhode Island State Archives)
South Carolina1915195019621915
South Dakota1905190519051905
Tennessee1914prior 50 yearsprior 50 yearsprior 50 years
VermontPrior 5 yearsPrior 5 yearsPrior 5 yearsPrior 5 years
Virginia1853-1896 and since 1912185319181853-1896 and since 1912
West Virginia1917192119681917
Wisconsin1907None (available from the County Register of Deeds)None (available from the County District Clerk)1907
Wyomingprevious 50 years to present (Records more than 50 years old are at the Wyoming State Archives)previous 50 years to present (Records more than 50 years old are at the Wyoming State Archives)1941previous 50 years to present (Records more than 50 years old are at the Wyoming State Archives)