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Vital records


What are vital records and what information can they contain?

Vital records document the "major" events of an individual's life: birth, marriage, death, and divorce. In general, vital records weren't kept in the United States until the early 1900s. Vital records usually contain the full name of the individual involved in the event, the date of the event, and the county, state, or town where the event took place. Many vital records contain much more information. For example, marriage records often record the names and birthplaces of each individual's parents. Divorce records usually list the names of the couple's children. Death certificates often mention where the individual will be buried, and also give the name of the individual who reported the death.

Where can I find vital records?

To request a copy of a vital record you normally need to contact the Department of Health Services or Vital Records Office in the state or county where the event took place. Some older records are held by state archives or libraries. For addresses and information about the holdings of vital records offices throughout the United States, see the topic All about state resources.

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