Good genealogy means finding original documents of your ancestors and documenting the source of those documents. You need to know how to order these documents. Every state and territory of the United States have their own rules. Every document will give you additional information on your family member.
An official certificate of every birth, death, marriage, and divorce should be on file in the locality where the event occurred. The Federal Government does not maintain files or indexes of these records, however they are filed either in a State vital statistics office or in a city, county, or other local office.
A copy of the original birth or death certificate sometimes provides additional information such as parents, spouses, dates and locations. Obtain as much information as possible on each ancestor and compare records. Be organized before you start sending for official documents as although each record is not expensive, a whole bunch might exceed your budget. Also, beware of free record searches, They usually are not free to actually get a record.
To obtain a certified copy of any of the certificates, write or go to the vital statistics office in the State or area where the event occurred. Google “Vital Records”. Addresses and fees are given for each event in the State or area concerned. If you don’t use the internet, there are books written giving the addresses for vital records.
To ensure that you receive an accurate record for your request, follow the steps outlined for each state. Be sure you write to the right office and right address and send either a money order or a check. Do not send cash. Be sure you send the right amount of money to the right office. These offices are always swamped with Vitalflow requests and are running behind. Every thing you do to expedite the process will be appreciated. It is a good idea to call the office before you send the request and money.
No matter where you look for the vital record information, whether online or in a phone book, it may not be current. Addresses change, fees change and conditions change. Privacy laws are now strictly enforced. Birth records usually are not available for the last 75 years. In Montana, copies of birth records that are less than thirty years old can be obtained only by the Mother, Father, Spouse or Child of the individual for whom the record is requested.
Type or print all names and addresses for the document you request. Give full names, sex, name of parents, including the maiden name of the mother, dates needed, location, purpose for requesting the document and relationship that you have to the person.
I have looked in New Jersey records: State office has had records since June 1, 1878. Additional copies of same record ordered at same time are $2.00 each. If the exact date is unknown, the fee is an additional $1.00 per year searched. The New Jersey State Archives searches vital records from May 1, 1848 to May 31, 1878 only. Personal check or money order should be made payable to New Jersey General Treasury. This is just an example, the information may not be current. It is interesting as this is the earliest I have seen the records kept by any state. They usually start about 1900-1920.
Another state I need records from is North Carolina. These are the guidelines: Birth Certificates: 1913-Present Death Certificates: 1930-Present Marriage Certificates: 1962-Present Divorce Certificates: 1958-Present. Note that most divorce records are much later.
Usually, you will send to the state department of health for birth and death records and to the county clerk of court for the marriage and divorce records. I see that in Montana, a photocopy of picture ID and a signature is required to obtain the records.
Interesting facts found online: In Oregon a Heirloom Birth Certificate costs $40. It is a Presentation style calligraphy certificate suitable for framing. Vermont State office has records for the latest 10 years. Virginia State office has had records from January 1853 to December 1896 and since June 14, 1912. Only the cities of Hampton, Newport News and Norfolk have records between 1896 and June 14, 1912. That beats New Jersey.