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Vital Records - A Brief Overview

By: Leo Talbot

Birth, Death and Marriage Records

The foundation of genealogy or family history research is birth, death and marriage records. It is these vital records of life's significant events that we turn to when we begin to seek out the knowledge of our ancestry. These public records and others such as the Social Security Death Index (SSDI), offer access to genealogical information that may not be available from any other source.

The Social Security Death Records constitute a data base of around 65/70 million names, most of which belong to the period from 1962 to 1988. This library of archived data is being constantly added to.

Using these family search tools you should be able to:

  • Distinguish between people with the same name

  • Identify your ancestors

  • Establish birth, death and marriage data, such as dates and places

  • Learn the occupation and place of residence of ancestors

  • Prove/disprove the validity of other records

  • Find subtle clues to assist your research

If family history (genealogical research) is something that you are just becoming interested in, then the best place to start is with yourself. Write your own name on a piece of paper with your birth date and place, and now add what you know about your parents and grandparents, and so on, until you have exhausted your immediate knowledge.

Next, if your parents are alive and you can meet with them face to face, take a piece of paper with you and have them exhaust their knowledge of names, dates and places. Repeat this with all living relatives. Write to those you cannot visit.

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