Many Paths to Sources: Vital Records Part 2

Just because a vital record (birth, marriage, or death certificate) may not exist for an ancestor, that doesn’t mean you can’t find alternatives to finding that information. Here is a list of alternatives to vital records for finding that basic BMD information:

  • Bible records – Not every family kept bibles with vital information, but when you get lucky these can be really awesome finds.
  • Church records – If your ancestors were religious and attended a church, there may be church records that can help with finding vital records. Each denomination was a little different in terms of what rites and records they performed, and their levels of preservation of those records varies widely.
  • Military records – If your ancestor served in the military, you may be able to find vital information of many kinds in things like enrollment papers, pension applications, burial request records, and more.
  • Cemetery records – Most cemeteries kept some kind of log or ledger recording the burials in their cemetery. Depending on the level of care, who managed the cemetery, and other factors, those records may or may not exist today.
  • Funeral Home records – Similar to cemetery records, depending on who handled the burial, if that company is still in business today, if they have a preservation plan in place for their records, and so on, finding funeral home records can be very useful in filling in some vital information.
  • Newspapers – Often, you can find news tidbits regarding the birth of a child, the death of a community member, or a marriage. This is especially true in smaller town newspapers where they shared every little detail with the community.

This list could go on, honestly, but that is my top list for finding vital record information when the state or county weren’t keeping those records yet.

How do you find the above mentioned records? Well, in the past several posts I’ve shared many ways to find records. Those same techniques will work for this as well. Use WorldCat, Archive Grid, Google, Cindy’s List, newspaper websites, Ancestry, Fold3, etc…

I think you get the idea of where this series was going by this point. Don’t give up. Keep searching. Try new websites. Don’t just Google for the specific record or person, think in terms of where those records might be and Google for that. Think in terms of “Pre-Research.” That’s a concept I’ve talked about in lectures and probably in this blog. You have to research where and how to do the research. Basically, you have to get past the mentality of going to a database website like Ancestry or FamilySearch and putting in a name in the general search box and then quitting if you don’t find what you are looking for. You have to keep looking, digging, and searching.

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