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US: Vital Records, Understanding and Using The Records
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NOTE: This course requires compulsory materials to be ordered. Please click on the Supplies tab for details.

Examining Birth, Marriage, & Death records and how they can expand your family tree. Birth, marriage and death records in the United States will be examined to show how much information is available in them. The history of when they began to be recorded in various places and the depth of the information in them over time will be discussed. The recording of vital statistics was most often done at the time the event occurred, which means the information is often of high accuracy. However, problems with accuracy will be explored.

The various administrative levels (municipal, county, and state) at which these records were kept and the repositories (archives and libraries) where they may now be found will be described. Published vital records will also be discussed. Suggestions for using the Internet for researching vital statistics records will be provided.

The objectives of this course:
  • Understanding the creation of vital records in the United States
  • Locating vital records in the United States
  • Evaluating information in these records
  • Creating a research plan based on availability of records
  • Securing documents needed to prove your family lineage


    Module 1
    Note about Web Addresses

    Before We Get Started
  • Reference Books & Sites

    Understanding & Using Vital Records
    Creation of Vital Records in the United States
    Birth Records
    Marriage/Divorce Records
    Online Databases

    Points of Reference For Documents
  • Birth Records
  • Marriage Records
  • Death Certificates

    Bible Records

    Module 2
    20th and 21st Century Death Records
    Death Indexes
    Cemetery Indexes & Photos
    Research Plan
    Newspaper/Obituary Websites
    Social Security Death Index

  • Church Records
  • Family Bibles
  • Probate Records
  • Funeral Home Records

    Additional Resources

    Module 3
    Locating a Death Date
    U.S. Federal Census Mortality Schedules
    Information on the Mortality Schedules

    Other Death Indexes Online
  • Headstones and Cemetery Indexes
  • Family History Library and FamilySearch
  • Further Information

  • Newspapers Online

    Work Progress Administration

    Module 4
    Marriage Records

    Finding The Marriage Date And Location
  • Gathering Necessary Information From Census Schedules

    Record Keeping
    Terms To Be Aware Of
    Officiating Body And Place Of Marriage
    Newspaper Research

    Locating The Original Records
  • State Archives

    More Reference Material For Marriage Records
    Divorce Records
    Bible Records
    Church Records

    Another Avenue To Find Records

    Module 5
    Birth Records
    Locating the Birth Records
    Delayed Birth Certificates
    Cite the Document

    Church Records
  • Skill Builder

    Court Records
    Military Records
    Using the Databases

    Module 6
    Researching Other Records

    Court Records
  • Courts By State

    Obituary Research

    Military Records
  • Important Military Dates
  • An Example of "Following the Leads"
  • Additional Internet Resources For Military Research

    Passport Applications
    Immigration & Emigration Records
    Naturalization Records
    Ships Lists
  • Passenger Ship Resources

    Lineage Societies
    Criminal Records
    Census Records

  • Listing of State and Territories Archives


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