Resources for Birth and Marriage Records
Early USA birth records can be sparse, except in New England. During the colonial period, church baptismal records that can substitute for birth records were kept in Pennsylvania, New England states, New York, New Jersey, and Virginia. Modern birth records (post-1890-1900) are maintained by states, counties, large cities, and also by historical societies.
Often, we assume that the birth record will give us the parents’ names and therefore attempt to start by searching for birth records first. You are more likely to be successful with your research if you do your search for vital records (birth, marriage, and death) in the reverse order of your ancestor’s life’s events. Start with death records which are the most recent records, then look for marriage records, and then for birth records.
Marriage licenses are the most common marriage records in the United States. The marriage certificates were often given to the couple after the ceremony and are usually found among family records. American researchers should conduct a search for a marriage license in the town or county clerk’s office in the locality where the couple was living at the time, or if they resided in different localities, search in the bride’s county or town of residence. Always check for the formal application for a marriage license, not just for marriage certificates and filed returns. This is particularly important for American research after the Civil War. Family records (Bibles, diaries, journals, naturalization papers, widows’ pension application files, etc.) may yield marriage documents. Additionally, military pensions and applications for same may include affidavits of eyewitnesses as to when and where a wedding took place or statements by family members who attended the wedding or knew the couple for years. Marriages were often performed by military and ship officers and were recorded in ships’ logs, daybooks, private journals or a port register.
RootsWeb/Ancestry – Introduction to Births and Deaths in Public Records
RootsWeb/Ancestry – U.S. Birth, Marriage, and Death Records
RootsWeb/Ancestry – U.S. Marriage Records
FamilySearch – U.S. Vital Records
Ancestry – U.S. Birth Records
Ancestry – U.S. Marriage Records
Cyndi’s List- US- US Vital Records- Select records from a State name index