Start with Vital Records

In genealogy, vital records are referred to as primary and secondary sources. These written documents help provide proof of an event in a person s life. There are birth certificates, birth registrations, baptismal records, marriage licenses, wedding certificates, divorce records, death registrations, church records, funeral home records, cemetery records, as well as newspaper notices on births, marriages and deaths.

Most vital records are available through a governmental agency or depository. Those from a church or synagogue would be held by each individual church or synagogue or at their central headquarters. Funeral home records reside with those individual businesses as does the records at cemeteries. Newspapers can be preserved at the individual newspaper s office, but also in the region s public libraries, usually saved on microfilm.

However, those same records, governmental, church or private business can contain errors. A careless typing or writing mistake, verbal information provided that was misunderstood all contributes to errors. So collect as many different records to compare as possible.

To verify an ancestor’s date of birth, gather the following. A birth certificate issued by a government agency would be your first primary source. Next, a newspaper notice of the birth is good. Any hospital record of the birth a family member had is also helpful. Look for a passport, it will have about birth. Use the secondary sources; such as military records, marriage license or a death certificate to confirm the exact birth date. Check any family Bibles, many have a listing, handwritten over the decades of births-marriages and deaths in the family.

From the beginning, as you collect the vital records you must have a system of organization. A notebook with vinyl sheets to store the documents is great. A filing cabinet with labeled folders to store the records is helpful. Using a computer to keep in digital form a listing of your collection keeps you up of what you and what you still need. Make sure you backup on an external drive that information.

In acquiring the vital records, start in your own household. You might have copies of birth, marriage and death records of your parents or grandparents already, tucked away in the attic. Next check with other relatives by asking your cousins, siblings, aunts and uncles for copies of their own birth and marriage records. Remember their records include more than just dates, other family names and locations are listed on the papers.

Confirm the basic information by using vital records will be a good start for the genealogy of the family. Doing a couple of generations and working back is the most successful method.

Photos: Vital records, family Bible and a county birth document

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