Genealogy Tech: Online Vital Records
Why search vital records online?
With the advent of the internet, family history has become a lot more accessible. Before the internet, all research had to be done by visiting libraries or archives or writing to parishes or historical societies to request copies or transcriptions of records. Now, with the click of your mouse, you have access to thousands of records online and are able to do much of your genealogical research from the comfort of your home. While not all vital records are online, more are being added each day.
What website do I use to search for vital records?
Unfortunately, there isn’t one central website that allows you to search all localities. There is a website, however, that lists different record collections available for different locations. That website is Cyndi’s List, and it can be a big help in your research. You can choose a certain area (England or New Hampshire, for example) and see a list of a number of sites that pertain to that area, including where to look for vital records (some of the sites it lists are free and some require payment). While the lists on this website are not totally inclusive, they can be a good place to start.
Are there other options to find vital records websites?
Another way to find records that are online is by doing a simple internet search. For example, when you type “Utah death certificates online” into a Google search, the top result is http://archives.utah.gov/research/indexes/20842.htm. On this site, you can view actual death certificates for individuals who died in Utah between 1904 and 1958. While not all states have posted actual certificates online, many have posted indexes and tell you how to order copies of the certificate(s) you want. This is true for other types of vital records as well – you might only be able to find a transcription online but oftentimes the actual certificate can be ordered.
Another place to search is the local historical society’s website or the GenWeb page for the locality you are interested in. The WorldGenWeb page can be found at http://www.worldgenweb.org/ and you can link to your specific locality there. These pages tell you which records are available online and oftentimes have transcriptions of records that are not online yet.
Here are some of our favorite vital records websites to get you started:
Family Search – This website contains records from all over the world. Much of their content is transcriptions of records but they have some images posted.
Ancestry - While this website focuses mainly on the United States and the United Kingdom, they have records from many other countries.
American Ancestors – This website contains records from New England.