United States Vital Records

New Jersey Marriage Index 1901-2016

Alec Ferretti, a budding genealogist, took upon himself the task of filing an OPRA request with the New Jersey Department of Health, seeking the marriage indices that legally should have been made available to the public (based on the law) but had not been. After being denied his request, he sought the help of genealogist’s newest friends, Reclaim the Records. They with their legal team helped Alec successfully challenge the denial, and to make this story short, though it wasn’t, they were able to get the indices available opened to the public and published on Archive.org. The setup at archive, not being conducive to a quick search, I have provided the links straight to the data, along with explanation text as provided by Reclaim the Records.

United States vital records, as its name suggests, is connected with central life events occurring within the United States: birth, marriage, and death. These records are prime sources of genealogical information, but, unfortunately, official records (those maintained by county and state governments), are available only for relatively recent time periods.

There are numerous aids for locating vital records. Most towns and counties have indexes to birth, marriage and death records. Even if the indexes are not complete, they can facilitate research. Many genealogical societies and online websites have published birth, marriage and death records.

When researching records, always check for duplicate copies at the various government levels. Many counties kept records before the states did. After state registration began, counties and cities continued to maintain their own registers of vital events. If one set of records is lost or incomplete, make sure to check the other.

For more recent births and deaths, an invaluable resource is the Social Security Death Index (SSDI). The Death Master File (DMF) from the Social Security Administration (SSA) currently contains over 89 million records and is updated weekly. The file is created from internal SSA records of deceased persons possessing social security numbers and whose deaths were reported to the SSA. Often this was done in connection with filing for death benefits by a family member, an attorney, a mortuary, etc. Each update of the DMF includes corrections to old data as well as additional names. Many websites provide access to the data, most of them free access.

The following pages provide addresses and information concerning the purchase of vital records from the various state agencies, and links to the variety of data available online for searching.

United States Vital Records Information

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