“Ask living members of your family what they know about your extended family. Look at records close at hand, such as family Bibles, to find more details about your forebears. Then you can reach out to other sources such as vital records, church records, census records, and military records. If you have access to a computer, you can put your computer skills to work and log on to the Church’s FamilySearch.org Web site. Family history has become a sophisticated activity where computers provide immense resources for your search. You can easily access a vast collection of family history records using the Internet on your home computer or at your nearest family history center. – James E. Faust, “The Phenomenon That Is You,” Liahona, Nov 2003, 53–56
When it comes to Genealogical records, those termed vital records are some of the most sought after. As will the year that the state mandated that they be kept. Sadly, most states did not mandate vital records until the early 1900’s.
What will Vital Records tell me?
Again, it depends on the state but most vital records issued after 1900 will tell you at least some of the following:
Birth Records – Full name of the recorded individual, date and place of birth, mother’s full name plus maiden name, father’s full name, mother’s age, father’s age, whether mother has born any other children.
Marriage Records – Groom’s full name and age, Bride’s full name and age, county of residence, name of witnesses, name of officiator, name of parents.
Death Records – Full name of the deceased, age at death, cause of death, town and/or county and state of death, place of interment, social security number, place of residence, full name of father, full name plus maiden name of mother, the attending physician, the informant, name of spouse, occupation.
Records kept prior to 1900 will vary even more in the information given state to state and will often hold much less information than more current records. It is also important to note that each type of vital record may have been mandated in a different year. So while a state may have begun keeping birth records in 1905, this doesn’t mean that marriage records were mandated then as well. They could have been mandated later or earlier. This goes for death records also.
Ordering Vital Records
There are many different options for ordering Vital records online. One popular service that I’ve heard of but haven’t used is VitalChek. Their website is very easy to navigate so I’ll let you check it out for yourself.
Another good resource which not only enables online orders, but also provides addresses to state record holdings if you prefer snail mail is Vitalrec.com. Once there, scroll down the page just a bit and you’ll see a list of States. Click on your state of interest and once on that page scroll down a bit again. You’ll find the address and phone number for that states record holdings, what records are available for what years, and how much the records cost, along with an option to order online.
If the vital records are available, get them whether you already know all that information about Great Grandpa or not. They’ll be a valuable keepsake and you may just be surprised to find something on one of them that you didn’t know.