The Framework ofyour Family HistoryKathy Petras
What are Vital Records? Documentation of life’s major events. – Births – Deaths – Marriages/Divorces Required to be registered and preserved by some branch of the government or churches. Primary sources for the events they document.
Primary vs. Secondary Sources Primary resources are produced at or near the time of the event by people involved in the event. Example: Death records that are filled out by the physician who witnessed the death Secondary resources are produced at a later time or by someone who would not have direct knowledge of the event. Example: Birth information that is given on a death certificate. The person providing information on the birth probably wasn’t present at the birth.
Vital Records, miscellaneous facts When acquiring vital records for an individual, work from the most recent, death, to the earliest, birth. In the United States, these records are maintained by a clerk in the city, town, county or state where the event took place. Since around 1900 (varies by states) most states keep the records of these events. (Birth & Death records for Ohio since 1908 can be ordered at any county health department). You may not have access to some records, such as recent birth records, due to privacy concerns and use for illegal purposes.
Death Records Originally deaths were registered to compile medical statistics on diseases and epidemics. Even after registrations were required, compliance with the law was haphazard and incomplete. The information about the death will probably be accurate, but other events reported on the records, such as birth date, parents and spouse, may contain errors, depending on who provided the information.
Death Records, continued Death records only exist in the United States for approximately the last 150 years. Prior to around 1900, look for death records at the county or city level. After 1900, check the state level for death records. The farther back in time you go, the less information you will find on a death record.QUIZ!!! How well can you read a document?**
Alternatives to official deathrecords Obituaries, while not official records of death, can contain valuable family information. – Check all obituaries for errors, due to incorrect information being given by the informant and typographical errors. Obituaries can be the one place where all the pertinent facts of a person’s life are revealed. – Earliest newspapers tended to only report the deaths of the most prominent citizens. Late in the 1800’s, obituaries became more common for everyone. – Obtain obituaries not only for your direct ancestor, but for their siblings, wives and children. – Obituaries are best obtained from the local library that holds microfilmed copies of the local papers.
Alternatives to official deathrecords, continued Probate Records – Includes wills and estate records. Closing out the estate of someone who has died happens only after they have died. Can also reveal wives and children. Cemetery Records – besides the tombstones, various other records exist in relation to burial of an individual, such as plot deeds, plat records, sexton’s records, and grave opening orders. While a tombstone should be accurate as to the date of death, it may not be as accurate for date of birth. www.findagrave.com Social Security Death Index - while this is not a true substitute for a death record, it can help you determine in what location to find a death record. AVAILABLE on Ancestry.com. Funeral Cards
Alternatives to official death records Tombstone Memorial Card Primary or Secondary Sources??
Marriage RecordsMarriages were required to be registered much earlier than birthsand deaths.Marriage records come in various forms, such as marriagelicenses, affidavits, and marriage certificates.These documents will provide the maiden name of the woman.They are most often filed at the county courthouse.In New England, town clerks began registering marriages in the1600s and in the South, in the 1700s.Only later are the parents included on a marriage record.Information on a marriage record can be inaccurate, due to thecouple falsifying their ages, etc.Consent affidavits would have to be filed if either of the partieswere under aged at the time of the marriage.
Alternatives to officialmarriage records Marriage banns were required by some church denominations. They were usually read aloud on three consecutive Sundays in church. They might also be posted in a public place. It was an opportunity for any objections to be raised. Bonds would be posted prior to the marriage. It was money set aside to defray expenses in case in the event the marriage didn’t take place. The money was posted by the groom or his father. Marriage bonds are NOT positive proof that a marriage took place. Bible Records Newspaper announcements
Divorce A divorce record shows that a marriage has taken place and often contains information on when and where the marriage took place. Divorce has existed in the U.S. from its earliest history and varied greatly from region to region. In some early states and territories, divorce was handled by the state legislature. Early alternatives to divorce were legal-permanent separations and desertion. Divorce laws have changed dramatically over the years. And these records still can be the hardest to locate. Each state has decided which court will handle divorce cases; superior, equity, probate or family court. Don’t forget that certain locations became known as “divorce meccas” including Reno, Nevada and Ashtabula County, Ohio.
Birth Records Only exist in the United States for approximately the last 150 years. The farther back in time you go, the less information you will find on a birth record. Prior to around 1900, look for birth records at the county level. Except for New England states, where the birth records are found at the town level. After 1900, check the state level for birth records. Delayed birth certificates were issued many years after the birth in cases where the person: – Was born prior to the keeping of birth records – Was not registered due to non-compliance. – Needed proof of birth to register for Social Security benefits.
Alternatives to official birthrecords Baptism or christening ceremonies have to be carefully checked. Often they only record the date of the ceremony, not the date of the birth. Bibles often have births, deaths and marriages. Check to see if the handwriting is the same throughout. If it is different, the events were likely recorded as they occurred. Check with family members, local and regional historical societies. http:///www.learnwebskills.com/patriot/biblerecords.htm Military pensions or muster rolls - often the approximate birth date had to be given. Census records – The later census records state the age of each individual, but the earlier ones only state the age range of people. But the information can be unreliable.
Where to find Vital Records:WEBSITES: http://www.CyndisList.com/usvital.htm#General http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/w2w.htm CDC List http://www.odh.ohio.gov/vitalstatistics/vitalstats.aspx Ohio Vital Records www.ancestry.com $ or AncestryLibrary Edition (Available inside most libraries) https://www.familysearch.org/ Family Search Site http://www.deathindexes.com/ VitalRecords www.vitalrec.com $ State Vital Records online. Examples: – Illinois Death Records http://www.cyberdriveillinois.com/departments/archives/death.html – Missouri Death Records http://www.sos.mo.gov/archives/resources/deathcertificates/
Where to find Vital Records:BOOKS: Kemp, Thomas,International Vital Records Handbook R929.107 KEM Handybook for Genealogists United States of America R929.107 Han Redbook American State County and Town Sources R929.107Red Szucs, Loretto, The Source :a Guidebook of American Genealogy R929.1SOU 3RD.ED.
Vital Records, reminders Once your record arrives you will want to document your source of the information. Where did you get the records, when did you get it, what volume and page number, etc. Do not fold it. Place it in an acid free sleeve. Store the original document in safe place.