Where do I go to find birth, marriage, and death records?

Collectively known as Vital Records, where to find birth, marriage, and death records depends primarily on your purpose, the time period, and your locality of interest. First is purpose. Are you looking to order a certified copy of the record for legal purposes, or are do you need the record strictly for genealogical purposes? Next, is time and place, determining what records were kept for what time period in your locality of interest.

If you wish to order a certified copy, you would need to find out what records were kept, and for what time period, in your locality of interest. You would then contact the local repository holding stewardship over such records, which may vary by state, parish, or country. In time periods before civil registration, such records were kept by families and churches, for which "certified" copies are not available. After the time of civil registration, birth, marriage, and death records are typically held by the various governing bodies in your locality of interest.

If the information you seek is strictly for genealogical purposes, records may be found in many places, including local repositories, free and fee-based genealogy websites, and family records. Several online sources are available to help you find vital records information. One of the best resources may be to use an Internet search engine, entering the words "Vital Records," followed by your locality. For example, "vital records England". The search will bring up several choices from which you can choose, including government repositories, as well as websites offering vital records. Alternately, you may enter the document type (birth, marriage, death), followed by the location; for example, "birth records England." Another very useful resource are the Family History Library Research Guides, available for all locations all over the world that suggest not only where to look for records, but also how to do research within a given locality.

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