Tracing Immigrants Arrival Vital RecordsEdit This Page

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Vital records, known as civil registration outside the United States and Canada, are government records of births, marriages, and deaths.

Twentieth-century marriage and death records often include detailed information about a person's birthplace and parents' names. Earlier civil vital records, when they exist, often have limited immigration information. Marriage records and death certificates may merely give country of birth. Even when vital records are unlikely to reveal a specific birthplace, search them for other important information. Civil death and marriage records may suggest other sources to search, such as which church the immigrant attended, which mortuary handled the funeral arrangements, or which cemetery he or she is buried in.

Even if a complete birth date and place is on a death certificate, the information may not be entirely accurate since the person reporting the event may not have known the place of origin. Verify information in civil vital records against information from other sources, such as censuses, ship passenger lists, cemetery records, or church records.

The Family History Library has civil vital records from many places. They are also available from government agencies. Addresses of vital records offices are listed in state, provincial, and country portals and research outlines.


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