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Genealogy: How to find a birth date and record

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When starting genealogy, we ask the question, “How do I find a birth date or a birth record?” Genealogy is all about dates: birth, marriage, death, baptism, confirmation, burial or other events. Family history is about the filling in of the events such as who, what, and where. The dates are the skeleton; the stories are the flesh. Both the dates and stores are necessary to have a well-rounded family narrative. Always work from the known to the unknown; always work from the most recent to the distant.

Suggestions for finding birth dates and records include:

  • Ask a family member
  • Read newspapers for obituaries, marriages, and birth announcements
  • Search census indexes such as or or other census sites
  • Search for specific vital records in specific locations such as “Will County, Illinois birth certificates
  • Search state archives for vital record indexes – remember most states started collecting vital records in about 1916
  • Search county records – counties started collecting vital records at different dates
  • Search church records – even if not a member, most families had their babies or children baptized
  • Find a grave stone inscription

What type of records may be found?

  • Colonial period – church, Bible, wills, diaries or other legal documents
  • Post 1880 – county records may be available the starting dates vary
  • 1916 to present – birth certificates are state records, remember the privacy requirements for the most recent documents

With all of your extensive research, the document may not exist. The dates may conflict between records. Prepare for many challenges; the results are worth the effort. The researchers’ goal is to find a reliable document closest to the time of the event.

Contact Selma Blackmon with your genealogy question.



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