What is a Vital Record?
a document issued by the government that provides proof of a
major life event - birth, death, marriage, or divorce. Civil vital records for births, deaths, and marriage mark the
milestones of our lives, and are the foundation of family history
Birth Records usually show the name of the child, gender,
date and place born, parents' names, and sometimes other data,
such as parents' birthplaces.
Marriage Records usually show names of the bride and groom,
date and place married, and sometimes other information, such
as ages. For information on "consent to marry", "marriage
bonds", "intentions of marriage" and other early
US marriage terms see
Search for U.S. Marriage Records" by
Sandra H. Luebking
Divorce Decree A final decree of divorce is the court's
formal order granting a termination of a marriage.
In addition to the name of the person, death records usually
provide marital status (single, married, widowed, or divorced),
cause of death, date and place of death and burial, and sometimes
the occupation, date and place of birth, age, parents' names and
their birthplaces (usually state or country), and other useful
information. The more recent the death record, the more information
you will find.
Interesting Facts about Vital Records
Churches were initially the sole keepers of vital records; ministers
in many American colonies were required by law to report christenings
and burials to civil authorities.
Official birth certificates were not issued by most states until
1910 or later.
Marriage licenses are the most common form of marriage records
in the United States.
Church death registers are valuable resources for tracing an
immigrant's place of birth.
In the early 1800s, the first time a female's name may be recorded
is on her headstone.