Guide to ordering Birth certificates, Marriage Licenses and Death Certificates

Vital Records
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Vital records are certificates for main life events, such as birth certificates, marriage licenses, divorce decrees and death certificates, that occurred in the United States. They are called “vital records” because they refer to critical events in a person’s life.

Vital Records have become more and more helpful to the genealogist and will become much more important as generations successfully pass. These types of records are considered "primary" resources of family tree research.

But Vital Records also have some limitations, however they can be used to help support or disprove established proof, to make clear the course of upcoming research, and also to complete a far more complete family tree.

The First Vital Records

Marriage records are the earliest form of the vital records. Registering of marriages as well as approving cases of divorce in early america tend to be quasi-religious, quasi-legal societal functions which have been affected by christian faith, customs, and British law ever since the founding of the original american colonies.

Example of a Colonial Marriage License
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Example of a Colonial Marriage License

Also, a great resource for marriage certificates are church publications that printed marriage banns.

The banns of marriage are the public announcement in a Christian church or in the town council prior to a wedding ceremony, giving notice to people who may have cause to protest.

State 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. Instead, marriage registration often is the responsibility of the individual states.

State Vital Statistics Registration
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Before state registration requirements, towns throughout New England as well as counties around colonial america had been the main jurisdictions charged with recording marriage license / bonds.

Because of this, records will typically be found dating from the time a town or county was established.

How to be Successful

To be successful, a genealogist needs to know which jurisdictions in charge of maintaining vital records, also:

  • the kinds of documents held by every single jurisdiction
  • time periods where numerous kinds of records have been archived
  • situations unique to every colony and state that established requirements for registering marriages and divorces
  • the events that created changes in these registrations

Ordering Birth certificates, Marriage Licenses and Death Certificates
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Remember that modern-day vital records are usually maintained by the state, however much older documents have been archived on the county level, if at all.

Vital Records Search Tips

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 Records

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 19001910 and 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

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

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.

Old Newspaper Records

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 Court Records

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

Guide to Ordering Birth Certificates

Most early birth certificates include very little biographical facts.

For example, most New England town and church records listed little information past the name of the infant, date of birth, place of birth, fathers name and mothers name. A few places recorded just the name of the father.

Despite the fact that earlier birth certificates may be short of a lot of details, since the 19th century birth certificates across the nation started to record more important details.

Despite the fact that births weren’t generally registered through the early years of the united states existence, the certificates which can be found could be the only resource for a date of birth on an particular person and should regularly be consulted.

You will find about three fundamental kinds of birth certificates:

  1. Original Birth Certificate
  2. Amended Birth Certificate
  3. Delayed Birth Certificate

“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.

Delayed Birth Certificates

Delayed births 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 whether or not the state of their birth didn’t have to have registration whenever 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 demanded evidence of age.

Applications would 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 certificates 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 to get a copy of Birth Certificate

Obtaining a copy of your birth certificate is fairly easy for citizens born in the United States. You may have lost your original birth certificate, or you might want an extra copy.

Typically you can order a copy of a Birth Certificate three different ways:

  • Ordering in Person
  • Ordering Online
  • Ordering by Mail

Each state has its own process for ordering a certified copy of a birth certificate. You can order your birth certificate from the state in which you were born.

In most states, birth certificates are available from the state’s Vital Records Office.

Where to get a copy of Birth Certificate

First, locate the vital records office in the state where you were born. There, you should be able to find your state’s specific process on how to get a birth certificates, including instructions and information on any applicable fees.

A few states don’t require a government-issued photo ID, or accept other solutions like a sworn statement of your identity. Some states allow your mother or father whose name is on the birth certificate to submit a notarized letter with a copy of their photo ID.

Guide to Ordering Marriage Certificates

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.

Due to the significance of the lawful division as well as control over property, nearly all states along with counties started to keep track of marriages prior to births and deaths.

Marriage Age

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 quite a bit of family history and genealogical 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, and these are often located within family items.

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.

What is a Marriage Bond?

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.

Guide to Ordering Death Certificates

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

Given that private information can 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 Certificates

Early death certificates in america 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 certificates written prior to the last quarter of the 19th century.

By 1900 death certificates 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
  • 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.


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.