How to Get Copies of Vital Records

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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 research.

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 "Your 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.

Death Records
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.