The National Institute for Genealogical Studies

LEADERS IN ONLINE GENEALOGY EDUCATION

The National Institute for Genealogical Studies - LEADERS IN ONLINE GENEALOGY EDUCATION

Time for US Vital Records

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series US Vital Records

By Shannon Bennett, Student

Vital records are the bread and butter, go-to source, for many genealogists. The volumes of information you can glean from their pages are treasure troves. Yes, many of my brick walls have tumbled once I laid my hands on those pieces of paper, but I never actually stopped to really study what they are. Have you?

In the US: Vital Records, Understanding and Using The Records course, we take an extensive look at birth, marriage,  and death records within the United States.

I was excited to read that we will study the levels of government that are involved with these records and where they are kept. To me that is one of the most important things to understand about records, where you can locate them and if you can get them. I know from experience that each state had different start years for vital records which makes uncovering proof very frustrating. Then you have to jump through each jurisdiction’s hoops to get the records because they are not the same from state to state or even county to county.

The topics covered look very in-depth. There is also a module on finding alternative records, or perhaps using them as clues to find those vital records. Many of you know from reading my previous posts that I approach genealogy as a great big puzzle that has to be put together. At times I have to get out my magnifying glass, put my Sherlock hat on and really analyze the clues. For me that is part of  having a research strategy that involves various record sets and documents to pin-point that next step in the research process.

Overall I think this will be an interesting and intriguing course. It should be fun, learning always is fun when you do it right, and I am excited to see what new tips I can pull from the pages.

See you online!

 

A Vital Record is a Vital Record

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series US Vital Records

 

Connecticut State Department of Health, death certificate (1928), Nancy M. Taylor; State Vital Records Office, Hartford.

Connecticut State Department of Health, death certificate (1928), Nancy M. Taylor; State Vital Records Office, Hartford.

We are off with a bang in the US: Vital Records, Understanding and Using The Records course! Module 1 jumps right into what is a vital record and how to find them. Contrary to what I thought from reading the introduction to the course, it appears that there are a whole slew of vital records, and not just birth and death. Good to know!

However,  course author Leslie Brinkley Lawson  is quick to point out to us that divorce records are not vital records, and I can see her point. Marriage records are created by the county and usually stored at the clerk’s office thus making them a record of the government, like a birth or death record. Divorce records are court records and while they do contain information that is good for genealogical purposes, they are not vital records. Nope, divorce records are records of the court not the government.

I was also pleased to see a step-by-step tutorial on how to find vital records on the Internet. Many people are unable to travel to research, and I understand that. Even though I love visiting onsite research facilities my circumstances make it difficult to drop everything and travel thousands of miles for the record I need. It is just not feasible! The guides, tips, and suggestions on finding these records on the Internet (and in some cases how to order them) was a wonderful addition.

Lastly, and I was really grateful this was covered, the instructor talked about vital records through the 20th and 21st centuries. Privacy laws in many jurisdictions can make it nearly impossible to obtain vital records on family members unless you qualify. For example, I tried to obtain both of my grandmother’s death certificates. One was very easy, I simply stated I was her granddaughter and provided documentation showing this (in my case her obituary that stated I was her granddaughter and a photo ID). The other was in a state with stricter laws. Since it was less than 25 years ago, only a spouse or child of the person was able to obtain the record. That meant I had to rely on the generosity of my parents to do it for me.

I’ve picked up some good tips, had a refresher on records and searching strategies, plus learned a few new things in these modules. All in all I would call that a success.

See you online!

 

Alternatives to Vital Records

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series US Vital Records
Letter from Anna Combs to pension officer, War of 1812 Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Application Files. Used with the permission of Shannon Bennett Combs

Letter from Anna Combs to pension officer, War of 1812 Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Application Files. Used with the permission of Shannon Bennett

by Shannon Combs Bennett, Student

Alright, down to the final modules before I take the exam. The last two modules covered birth records and other documents that a researcher could use in the place of vital records. Which, if you have ancestors particularly in southern states, you need all the alternative ideas on finding records you can find.

I did know a lot of the alternative resources listed, but there were a few that made me think and want to explore more.  As I alluded to above, some states and counties have nearly non-existent records. If you are doing research in a burned county or a place that had a large natural disaster you will need to figure out ways to work around traditional vital records.

The list was extensive for alternative places that you could find vital records information, and I wanted to share a few here with you.

  • Court records (one of my favorite places to look, by the way Chancery records are amazing!)
  • Military records (have you seen what a pension file can hold?)
  • Immigration records (I am envious of those of you who can look here.)
  • Ship Lists (don’t forget, people came through other places than Ellis Island!)
  • Lineage societies (there are some amazing libraries and resources out there.)

In particular my greatest successes have come from military pension files, but service records, medical records, and histories can provide a lot of information too.  For example, in my 4th great grandfather’s 1812 pension file I discovered a handwritten note by his 2nd wife stating what he told her was his birth date.  As of the writing of this post that is the only date I have ever found for his birth.

The instructor also talks about using resources provided by lineage societies.  There are numerous lineage societies in this country and many of them have archives that you can visit and research at.  If you have never considered doing research at one of them you really should.  In module 6 the instructor mentions the website for the Daughters of the American Revolution.  This should be a go-to website for anyone with ancestors in the U.S. who date to the beginning of our country.  Their database can be searched online and their library is well worth a visit if you ever get the chance to visit Washington, D.C.

Well off to take my final.  Wish me good luck and see you online!

 

Wrapping Up U.S. Vital Records

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series US Vital Records

By Shannon Bennett, Student

Another great course is wrapped. US: Vital Records, Understanding and Using The Records is a required course for the American Certificate, but I feel it would be a great one to take if you are struggling to find those elusive BMDs in American records. While I did know a lot of the course information already I hope you could see from my prior posts how it wasn’t just a retelling of information which a majority of long-term researchers may already know.

I touched briefly on the websites and resources included in the course a few posts back, but I wanted to talk to you a little bit more about those here. As usual with National Institute courses there was a fantastic reading list and suggestions where you could learn more information about what the instructor taught. This course was no exception.

In fact, I am still going through some of the suggested resources. However, I thought I would touch on a few that I think would be useful to you in your research. Luckily, these are all online so you can research them to your heart’s content from your computer or tablet. There is also the added bonus for the two books listed that you do not need to worry about having to order them through interlibrary loan or purchasing a copy (The Source is a HUGE book by the way).

I hope you take the time to explore these resources. For American research they are considered go-to sources and vital to helping you break down your brick walls. I used them through the course to give me more insights into what I was learning as well. Plus I continue to use them as a road map for my current research.

Overall I was pleased with the course and think you will be too. It was not too basic but not so advanced that a newer genealogist would get lost. I am pretty sure you can glean some useful gems from it.

Well thanks for sticking around to see how it all turned out! Another basic level course done and I am chugging along to the next one. Up next is the course Google for the Wise Genealogist.

See you online!

 

Marriage and Death

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series US Vital Records
"Indiana, Marriages, 1811-1959," index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/VRQ7-VWW : accessed 07 Oct 2014), Robert Morris and Bertheny Cannon, 22 Mar 1860; citing Martin County; FHL microfilm 001316952.

“Indiana, Marriages, 1811-1959,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/VRQ7-VWW : accessed 07 Oct 2014), Robert Morris and Bertheny Cannon, 22 Mar 1860; citing Martin County; FHL microfilm 001316952.

Another week, another couple of modules! I am still learning great information from the course US: Vital Records, Understanding and Using The Records  and I think you will find the information interesting too. Modules 3 and 4 covered death and marriage, which I hope you remember from my introduction post  was what I was most  interested in reading more about.

I thought it was wonderful that the instructor took the time to explain the differences in civil and church records for marriages. Many people are confused by this topic and because of their confusion don’t always look in the correct places for the documents they need. So we are all on the same page, civil records are the certificate, license, or register of return that is kept at the clerk’s office usually in the county seat. Church records would be the register of marriages that the clergy keep as a record of what occurred in the church and when. The records kept at the clerk’s office is what you should think of as the vital record.

In addition to the explanation of what the differences in record types are we were also given search strategies on how to locate those records. The course author gave us tips on extracting and pulling information from common sources (like the U.S. Census) and not so common sources (newspaper articles).

Bible records were also discussed since they can be used as clues for locating birth, marriage, and death records. I am still waiting to find a family bible, but for those of you who have family bible records you are really lucky. It might not be 100% correct information but it will give you clues on where to look next if you are stuck.

Finally, these two modules ended with a listing of wonderful resources on where to find more information online and in repositories. These sections tend to be my favorite parts, I always learn about a new website or book. One new to me website was  The Vital Tree.  It looks like a wonderful resource and one I am still learning to use. At the writing of this post they were in the middle of changing website addresses, so keep an eye on them.

Onward to the next modules where we will learn about birth records and alternative records for research.  Should be fun!

See you online!

 

%d bloggers like this: