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We are off with a bang in the US: Vital Records, Understanding and Using The Records course! Module 1 jumps right into what is a vital record and how to find them. Contrary to what I thought from reading the introduction to the course, it appears that there are a whole slew of vital records, and not just birth and death. Good to know!

Connecticut State Department of Health, death certificate (1928), Nancy M. Taylor; State Vital Records Office, Hartford.

Connecticut State Department of Health, death certificate (1928), Nancy M. Taylor; State Vital Records Office, Hartford.

However,  course author Leslie Brinkley Lawson  is quick to point out to us that divorce records are not vital records, and I can see her point. Marriage records are created by the county and usually stored at the clerk’s office thus making them a record of the government, like a birth or death record. Divorce records are court records and while they do contain information that is good for genealogical purposes, they are not vital records. Nope, divorce records are records of the court not the government.

I was also pleased to see a step-by-step tutorial on how to find vital records on the Internet. Many people are unable to travel to research, and I understand that. Even though I love visiting onsite research facilities my circumstances make it difficult to drop everything and travel thousands of miles for the record I need. It is just not feasible! The guides, tips, and suggestions on finding these records on the Internet (and in some cases how to order them) was a wonderful addition.

Lastly, and I was really grateful this was covered, the instructor talked about vital records through the 20th and 21st centuries. Privacy laws in many jurisdictions can make it nearly impossible to obtain vital records on family members unless you qualify. For example, I tried to obtain both of my grandmother’s death certificates. One was very easy, I simply stated I was her granddaughter and provided documentation showing this (in my case her obituary that stated I was her granddaughter and a photo ID). The other was in a state with stricter laws. Since it was less than 25 years ago, only a spouse or child of the person was able to obtain the record. That meant I had to rely on the generosity of my parents to do it for me.

I’ve picked up some good tips, had a refresher on records and searching strategies, plus learned a few new things in these modules. All in all I would call that a success.

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