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As we discussed in the previous lesson,
family researchers in the United States may simply refer to vital records
as birth, marriage, or death records. The government may classify them
as vital records or vital statistics. Our U.S. states may classify them
as Health Department records and other countries refer to them as civil
More entities than we may first realize
have responsibilities for maintaining these records. While we may be
aware of State Boards of Health, there are also city workers, military
personnel, hospital workers, and others who must also oversee the keeping
of these records.
Electronic and Printed Versions
This record group has found its way into
print both traditionally and electronically. There are at least
five great values to printed vital records over microfilmed or original
They can serve as a finding aid for other information.
Quick access to information is available for genealogists.
They are easier to read than originals.
If electronically entered, they can often be searched
in unique ways.
When originals have been destroyed, these printed
sources become invaluable.
However, there are some cautions to keep in mind when
using printed vital records. A few of these include:
Limited coverage is usually available due to privacy
laws for most areas.
An every-name index is not often available in early
The complete citation is rarely given, so they are
often finding aids only, and the original must still be ordered.
Many transcribers are untrained in paleography and
nicknames, so frequent transcription, interpretation, or typographical
errors may be found.
Sometimes dating inaccuracies are found for the previous
reason as well.