Birth and Death Records

Vital records are invaluable in genealogical research, with details about both the person and the residence. Generally certified copies are restricted to prevent identity theft, but informational copies are available.

American vital records are maintained at the state level, aggregated into population statistics used for planning. Each state determines privacy policy, registration date, prices, and information requirements. Registration largely began between 1850 and 1950, depending on the state. Some states restrict information for 100 years, while others have current indexes online.

Each state has a central Vital Records office and a website with mail-in application forms. Some allow phone or fax requests. While email requests are not allowed, most allow online requests through VitalChek. Many allow faster in-person requests, some at local offices.

At a minimum, birth records contain the child's name, sex, date of birth, and parents' names. Birthweight, parents' occupations, and doctor are often included. Genealogically, this information can help to find census, land, court, and church records.

At a minimum, death records contain the decedent's name, sex, date of death, age at death, and informant. The decedent's date and place of birth, place and cause of death, medical care, occupation, military service, marital status, surviving family, address, parents' names and birthplaces are often included. Genealogically, this information can help to locate cemetery, wills/probate, and church records.

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