Civil Government Birth, Marriage, and Death Certificates
The term “certificate” usually refers to a document that was created by a civil authority. In most countries, registration was mandatory but not always followed. Certificates were housed in civil locations, such as registration offices and courthouses. The date when registration began and content of the records varies by locality. A church usually recorded births, marriages, and deaths before the civil authority started registration.
Certificates are important because they provide a wealth of genealogical data about a family. They are the best source of information because they were created close to the event.
A birth certificate contains the name of a child, his or her birth date and place, and the names of the child’s parents. Depending on the locality and time period, a birth certificate could contain more information, such as the location of the birth (a hospital), the occupation of the father or mother, the address of the family residence, or the date when the birth was registered.
A marriage certificate shows the names of the bride and groom and the date and place of marriage. Depending on the locality and time period, a marriage certificate could contain more information, such as their ages and occupations, the names of their parents, and the names of the witnesses.
A death certificate records the name of the deceased, the date, and place. Depending on the locality and time period, a death certificate could contain more information, such as the cause of death, the name and relationship of the informant, and the place of burial.
There are several methods to locate certificates of interest. You can search this site using the words "vital records" and location e.g (Arizona vital records).
For US records you can start at:
Certificate Exchange is a site where genealogists may offer their unwanted BMD certificates, wills or medal rolls to others who may want them.
You may also try a google search with the words "vital records" and location. Location usually will need to be a country, state, or county.