Midvale Union Fort
 Multi-Stake Family History Center
540 East 7155 South in Midvale
 (just north of fire station) Please use north door      
Phone: (801) 569-1621 
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Research Tactics Lesson 5
Our Ancestors Want Us to be Accurate.
I give you a special blessing about your family's genealogical work. You will shortly come into genealogical lines which have had some work done in them, but I charge you to cross-check to be sure that the records are adequate and accurate for Satan would have the genealogical records inaccurate in order to pervert the ways of the Lord, and I bless you that you may have great accuracy in all that you do.
(Ira A. Terry, Patriarch, Boston Stake, August 3, 1963)

Family members often hold the keys to our ancestry. Many times, though, we wait too long before talking to older relatives. Memory loss associated with age, Alzheimer's disease, and death all conspire to rob us of valuable information that could help us in our search. Plus, no one wants to spend 10 years searching for a piece of information only to be told when presenting this new and exciting find to the family, Oh, I could have told you that. That one simple sentence is enough to send us running and screaming into the night! Our Ancestors Want Us to be Accurate.

There seems to be a spirit that takes over once someone becomes involved in genealogy. And that spirit is proof that there are those on the other side vitally concerned with this work. This is a spiritual work, a monumental effort of cooperation on both sides of the veil where help is given in both directions. It begins with love. Anywhere you are in the world, with prayer, faith, determination, diligence, and some sacrifice, you can make a powerful contribution. Begin now. I promise you that the Lord will help you find a way. And it will make you feel wonderful.
(Richard G. Scott Ensign, Nov. 1990)
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Discussion & Theory
(Vital Records)
Civil governments have created records of births, marriages, and deaths. Records containing this information are commonly called “vital records,” because they refer to critical events in a person's life. These are the most important documents for genealogical research, but the births, marriages, and deaths of many people have never been recorded by civil authorities.

To find a civil vital record, you will need at least the approximate year and place in which the birth, marriage, divorce, or death occurred. You may need to search other records first to find clues about these events, such as family Bibles, genealogies, local histories, biographies, church records, cemetery records, censuses, court records, land records, citizenship applications, pension files, newspaper notices, and probate files. For the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries these sources must often be used as substitutes for civil vital records.

The practice of recording civil vital statistics developed slowly in the United States. Early vital information was sometimes recorded in brief entries in register books until the twentieth century, when it became more common to create certificates. Some town clerks in colonial America (especially New England) recorded vital information, but these records are incomplete. The federal government has not registered vital records, except for some Americans born outside the country who were recorded in embassy or consulate records.

Records of marriages were generally the first vital records kept in a locality. In most states, the counties or towns began recording marriages as soon as they were established. Whether the marriage ceremony was performed by a civil or a church authority, local laws required the marriage to be recorded in civil records. The local health departments of a few large cities began recording births and deaths by the mid-1800s but the early records are usually incomplete.

Each state eventually developed its own laws and created a statewide registration system. Unfortunately, these records do not exist until the early 1900s in most states. Local offices did not always comply immediately with the registration laws. Within 20 years after registration laws were enacted, most states were recording at least 90 percent of the births and deaths.

New England States: These states have kept good vital records. The town clerks kept register books as early as the 1600's. Most of these states have statewide indexes of the existing records. Most New England states began statewide registration of births, marriages, and deaths between 1841 and 1897. Vermont began centralized registration in 1919, but individual town records go back to the 1700s. Except for New Hampshire, which began recording marriages as early as 1640, many New England marriages in colonial times were not recorded because of the laws and religious customs of the region.

Middle-Atlantic States: It is unusual to find any vital records before 1885 for New York and Pennsylvania, except in the larger cities. All of the states began statewide registration of births and deaths between 1878 and 1915. Statewide registration of marriages began between 1847 and 1906. New Jersey and Delaware have marriage records dating from the 1660s (or the creation of the counties), but systematic recording of marriages in New Jersey did not begin until 1795.

Southern States: In the southern states, laws for civil registration of births and deaths were enacted between 1899 and 1919. Marriages were a legal contract which involved property rights, so the counties recorded them carefully, starting in the early 1700s (except in South Carolina where they began in 1911). Most states initiated statewide marriage files between 1911 and 1962. Virginia counties began recording births, marriages, and deaths in 1853, but stopped between 1896 and 1912. Church vital records often reach back into the 1700s.

Midwestern States: Government officials in these states began files of births and deaths as early as the 1860s in many counties. Statewide registration of births and deaths was initiated between 1880 and 1920. Officials began recording marriage dates as soon as each county was established and generally began statewide registration between 1880 and 1962.

Western States: The western states vary greatly in their registration of vital records due to their different settlement patterns. Most areas began statewide registration of births and deaths between 1903 and 1920. While most counties were keeping marriage records by 1890, or the date the county was created, statewide registration generally began between 1905 and 1978. Hawaii's records of births, marriages, and deaths start as early as the 1840s.

Birth, marriage, divorce, and death records may be obtained by contacting or visiting state offices of vital records or the appropriate clerk's office in a town or county courthouse. Genealogical societies, historical societies, and state archives may also have copies or transcripts. To protect the rights of privacy of living persons, most modern records have restrictions on their use and access.
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Bring to Class This Week:
1. The file for the family you are working on and flash drive for transporting new finds
2. Optional: Your family computer file to work on in class

Lesson Materials:
Print out or download all of this material
Lesson, Our Ancestors Want Us to be Accurate, Vital Records
1. Rules for our ancestors
2. State Archives vs. State Historical Society
3. Jurisdiction & the FHL Catalog

Web Links:

Homework for Next Week:
1. Read Lesson 6 and all Links

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