Vital Record Sources & Search Tips

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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.

United States Vital Website Links


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 and genealogy reasons, those documents ought to be searched for as the essential records of birth.

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.

Just 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.

A few valuable resources for locating burial site information and facts tend to be wills, obituaries, church records, death certificates, and family interviews. For locating specific tombstones, examine every attainable cemetery records, prayer cards or mass, family Bibles, as well as written and published cemetery surveys.

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.