U.S. Vital Records

Where to Get Copies of Birth, Marriage and Death Certificates

Learn how to get copies of birth, marriage or death certificates-United States vital records
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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

L

R

Alabama

Louisiana

Rhode Island

Alaska

M

S

Arizona

Arkansas

Maine

South Carolina

C

Maryland

South Dakota

Massachusetts

T

California

Michigan

Canal Zone

Minnesota

Tennessee

Colorado

Mississippi

Texas

Connecticut

Missouri

U

D

Montana

N

Utah

Delaware

V

District of Columbia

Nebraska

F

Nevada

Vermont

New Hampshire

Virginia

Florida

New Jersey

Virgin Islands

G

New Mexico

W

New York (except NYC)

Georgia

New York City

Washington

H

North Carolina

West Virginia

North Dakota

Wisconsin

Hawaii

O

Wyoming

I

 

Ohio

 

Idaho

Oklahoma

 

Illinois

Oregon

 

Indiana

P

 

Iowa

 

K

Pennsylvania

 

Puerto Rico

 

Kansas

 

 

Kentucky

 

 

 

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).

 

More About Vital Records

5 Things You Can Learn from Death Records

How to Access Funeral Home Records

How to Find Your Family History Through Obituaries

Free Online Marriage Records and Indexes

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Powell, Kimberly. "U.S. Vital Records." ThoughtCo, Mar. 3, 2017, thoughtco.com/us-vital-records-4082737. Powell, Kimberly. (2017, March 3). U.S. Vital Records. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/us-vital-records-4082737 Powell, Kimberly. "U.S. Vital Records." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/us-vital-records-4082737 (accessed November 19, 2017).