Genealogy Friday: 9 Places to search for records before Vital Records

Birth, Death and Marriage Records are vital records
Birth, Death and Marriage Records are vital records



Vital records were not standardized until the early 20th century.  For most states this occurred from 1910-1920, but some states may be earlier or later.

What are vital records?   Birth certificates, marriage records and death certificates

So how can you find information needed before vital records existed?

  1. Census records—the 1900 census is especially useful because it provides the month and year of birth for each family member. Later census records list how long a couple have been married.
  2. Family Bibles—family bibles often contain birth, marriage and death information.
    Family Bibles contain a lot of great family information
    Family Bibles contain a lot of great family information
  3. Obituaries are loaded with family history information. Sadly, obituaries in in the early 20th century and before are usually not as detailed as most today.
  4. Look at pictures—often you can determine a person’s age depending on the picture. Are the pictures labeled with names and dates?  Even if they aren’t you may be able to narrow down the date based on the clothing and type of picture.
  5. Marriage bonds—some states had marriage bonds in the 19th
  6. Church records—these records may record marriages, christenings, baptisms, and burials in the church cemetery.
  7. Land records—this may sound unusual at first, but often a parent would give land to a son or daughter that was recently married.
  8. Probate records—wills and estate records may indicate if a child is a minor, married, or single. Sometimes these records will include a husband’s name for a daughter.  Also, notice who the executor of the estate is or if a guardian has been appointed for younger children.
  9. Local funeral homes—if a funeral home was established before vital records in your area, check with them to inquire about their records. Even if vital records were already established, still check with them.  Often you can get more information from contacting them in person, but not always.  Also, some do not have some of their earlier records for various reasons.  Still it never hurts to check.

How have you found information in place of vital records?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.