lost government issued documents

Using Birth & Death Certificates to Create a Family Tree

Finding out family history can lead to very exciting discoveries. Perhaps you are a descendant of a founding father, famous artist, or will find long lost family members. No matter what you are looking for in your family’s lineage, you will need to have access to both birth and death certificates to help complete a family tree. While gaining access to vital records is easy in today’s day and age, it may not be so easy to find records of your families past without some research.

Vital records as formal certificates did not become common until later in America’s history. Birth certificates were standardized in the late 1930’s. Prior to the standard birth certificate, it was common for the practicing religion to keep documentation of births and deaths. Once you know where to start, using birth and death certificates to create your family tree can help you follow maiden names or name changes throughout your family line. Next, you can start unlocking information that can be passed down to your children, down to their children, and throughout the family for years to come. Here are some helpful steps on how you can start creating a family tree with your vital records.

  • Start by asking living family members for family information. You should start with your oldest living relative to get information as far back as possible. Welcome the stories they tell, you never know which ones may prove to be helpful in your search!
  • Once you have an idea of your family story, start by going backwards. This may sound strange but if you can start with your personal history, then your parents, and then their parents, you will get a good deal of information to start a family tree.
  • Research birth certificates, death certificates, and marriage certificates for family members who lived long before you. Remember that it wasn’t common to use a government recorded birth certificate in the United States prior to the 1900’s. You can look for information in both religious records such as The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-Day Saints Family History Centers online resource or Census Records for helpful genealogy records. You can search through census records online by doing a search, in person in Washington DC, or at your local library.
  • While handwriting family information down may seem helpful, it is recommended that you start a family map or chart that can be saved on your computer. A digital copy can easily be shared to other family members so they can help add information and can also help keep you organized.

Researching family history is fun and can help bring family together. If you need help obtaining vital records during your search, you can visit VitalChek. We are a leading vital records provider and make obtaining your personal records simple.


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