Humanities › History & Culture U.S. Vital Records Where to Get Copies of Birth, Marriage, and Death Certificates Share Flipboard Email Print Kathryn8/Getty Images History & Culture Genealogy Vital Records Around the World Basics Surnames Genealogy Fun American History African American History African History Ancient History and Culture Asian History European History Inventions Latin American History Medieval & Renaissance History Military History The 20th Century Women's History View More By Kimberly Powell Genealogy Expert Certificate in Genealogical Research, Boston University B.A., Carnegie Mellon University Kimberly Powell is a professional genealogist and the author of The Everything Guide to Online Genealogy. She teaches at the Genealogical Institute of Pittsburgh and the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy. our editorial process Kimberly Powell Updated January 28, 2019 Vital records—birth certificates, marriage certificates, death certificates, and divorce decrees—are one of the best resources to help build a family tree. Once you determine the state where the birth, death, marriage or divorce occurred, select the state from the list below to learn how to get a certified copy of the vital record or where to find free vital records online. Where to Find U.S. Vital Records A AlabamaAlaskaArizonaArkansas C CaliforniaCanal ZoneColoradoConnecticut D DelawareDistrict of Columbia F Florida G Georgia H Hawaii I IdahoIllinoisIndianaIowa K KansasKentucky L Louisianna M MaineMarylandMassachusettesMichiganMinnesotaMississippiMissouriMontana N NebraskaNevadaNew HampshireNew JerseyNew MexicoNew YorkNew York CityNorth CarolinaNorth Dakota O OhioOklahomaOregon P PennsylvaniaPuerto Rico R Rhode Island S South CarolinaSouth Dakota T TennesseTexas U Utah V VermontVirginiaVirgin Islands W WashingtonWest VirginaWisconsinWyoming Vital records are one of the best resources for helping you to build your family tree due to their: Completeness—Vital records usually cover a large percentage of the population and include a wide variety of information for linking families.Reliability—Because they are usually created close to the time of the event by someone with personal knowledge of the facts and because most governments have measures in place to try and ensure their accuracy, vital records are a fairly reliable form of genealogical information.Availability—Since they are official documents, governments have made an effort to preserve vital records with newer records being found in local government offices and older records residing in a variety of record repositories and archives. Why Vital Records May Not Be Available In the United States, the responsibility for registering vital events is left to the individual states. Many states, however, did not require birth, death or marriage records to be registered until late into the 1800s, and in some cases not until the early to mid-1900s. While some New England states kept town and county records as early as the 1600s, other states such as Pennsylvania and South Carolina didn't require birth registration until 1906 and 1913, respectively. Even after registration was required by law, not all births, marriages and deaths were reported—the compliance rate may have been as low as 50-60% in earlier years, depending upon the time and place. People living in rural areas often found it an inconvenience to take a day from work to travel many miles to the local registrar. Some people were suspicious of the government's reasons for wanting such information and simply refused to register. Others may have registered the birth of one child, but not others. Registration of births, marriages, and deaths is much more accepted today, however, with current rates of registration closer to 90-95%. Marriage records, unlike birth and death records, can also usually be found at the county level, and are often available from the date the county was organized (going back into the 1700s in some instances). In some areas, marriage records may also be found at the town level (e.g. New England), the city level (e.g. NYC) or the parish level (e.g. Louisiana).