These records include information such as the event date and place, age (at the time), parents’ names, occupation, residence, and sometimes will include the actual address or social security number. If the record is a death record it will also include the cause of death and possibly the place and date of burial.
Vital records are very accurate, but when dealing with very old records they are not always 100% accurate. It's very helpful to gather as much information as possible and compare notes before setting something in stone.
Birth records are a great way to add important detailed information to your family tree. They provide facts such as the name and sex of the newborn child, date and place of birth, the parent’s names and sometimes ages, address, occupation and much more.
It really depends on the year and state the record was recorded as to how much information it contains. Sometimes we can estimate a birth date through census records or marriage records, but it is so much more exciting when we have an actual birth record with the accurate birth date to include.
Birth Certificate Tips:
- It helps in estimating a birth date by using census and other information, but please remember the more records you have the more accurate you will be.
- Oftentimes, it is very helpful to search the names of parents instead of the child, especially if you are having a difficult time finding the information.
- If you can’t find a birth record, look through census records, city directories, and church records. Church records often contain birth-related records, for instance, baptismal records.
On 1, July 1837 in England and Wales, began the formal registration of marriages - Civil Registration. Before Civil Registration, each parish kept their own records of marriages, baptisms, and burials. Unfortunately, only about 800 parishes kept these records and the rest ignored the 1538 mandate. Therefore, if a researcher needs to find a marriage record dated before 1837 they will need to check Parish records. They are a few websites online that you can research; some free and some charge a fee. Try the free sites first!
Marriage Record Research Tips:
- Look at the age & birthplace of the first child to help narrow your search for marriage records. This information can easily be found in census records.
- Census records from certain years include information such as how many years the said husband and wife have been married and how many times they have been married before being married to each other. This can help you estimate the marriage year.
Key dates to keep in mind when searching for marriage records:
- 1538 - Mandate issued for each parish to keep a register.
- 1643-1659 - Due to the English Civil War & the Commonwealth period registers were poorly kept or abandoned.
- 1733 - Prohibited Latin language from registers
- 1754 - Lord Hardwicke’s Marriage Act - Hardwick's law enforced a separate marriage register, which included witnesses, signatures, residences of both parties, and other information. Hardwicke's law also made legal clandestine marriages, and enforced Banns, which was abolished by the Roman Catholic Church in 1983.
- 1763 - Parties can no longer marry at age 12 (females) and age 14 (males). Age 16 is the minimum age, and consent from parents is required if under age 21, which is considered the "full age."
- 1812 - George Rose’s Act enforced the use of pre-printed (marriage, burial, and baptismal) registers with the intentions of standardizing records.
Death records are a great source for details concerning the death of an ancestor. In most cases, a researcher can get a copy or an image of the actual death record. Death records often include the full name, birth date and location, death date and location, burial date and location, the informant of the death, the deceased parents names, the cause of death, and an array of other information. Again, information varies depending on the year and state.
Death Research Tips:
- City directories can help track your ancestor year to year and may help zero in on death dates and places.
- Court records like wills can help you estimate death dates.
- Census records can help estimate death records as well, especially if the spouse is still living. Try finding the spouse and see if they are listed as "widowed."
- An obituary is a great place to find the death date, but beware of printing mistakes (dates could be wrong).
- FindAGrave is a great resource and it's free. Members, like Professional Family Trees, gather cemetery information and photos and post to the site so others can enjoy. If you can't find birth or death information for your ancestor this might be a great resource!
- Once you have the date of death, it will be very helpful in finding obituaries, cemetery records, civil and church records, probates, and much more!
The links below are from the CDC. They are a great resource for those wanting vital certificates (birth, marriage, divorce, death).
First, select the state where the record occurred. Once the new page opens, carefully read and follow the directions.
District of Columbia
Foreign or high-seas events
New York (except New York City)
New York City
Northern Mariana Islands