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3 Ways to Find a Marriage Certificate

If you are searching for a marriage certificate, there are some things you need to know.

First, not everyone can get a copy of a marriage certificate. Second, there are several ways to find one. Third, it can be very difficult to track down certificates if you don’t have complete and accurate information.

With that in mind, here are three ways you can track down a marriage certificate, be it your own or someone else’s.

Apply to the State for Your Marriage Certificate

Each state has a database that allows you to request vital records.  The catch is that some states keep marriage licenses and certificates at the state clerk’s office, and others keep them with the county clerk.

In either case, you will need to know the names of the bride and groom, as well as the bride’s maiden name.  You will need to know where the marriage took place and on what date.

If you have that information, you will need to send along a letter explaining your need for the document.  If you are searching for your own certificate or that of a close relative, there is usually no problem in obtaining a copy.  If you are not a close relative though, the decision really falls to the discretion of the clerk replying to your request.  In a genealogical search, there may be more leeway for your request, but no clerk will entertain idle curiosity.

Search through Old Records Yourself

If you know where the marriage took place and are willing to search old records, this may be a good way to dig up old marriage records that are not entered in computer databases.  It can be a real hit or miss proposition to dig up these old records, and sometimes you will do better checking old newspapers for the printing of Banns or public notices of a wedding.

To be effective in this kind of search you must be certain where the marriage took place.  In many small towns around the country, church records and local newspaper notices may be the only way to establish a marriage took place.  Using the information in old family bibles is the best place to start, but expect this kind of search to be time consuming and often unsuccessful.

Use an Online Search Service

If you don’t need to possess a certified copy of a marriage certificate, the best way to verify that a marriage took place is to use an online search service.  These companies have accessed the public databases around the country and compiled the information in one place.

You just need to enter the data you have and let the search engine pull up likely matches.  You won’t need all the data the state wants, which makes it easier, You can do this at any time of the day and night, making it much more convenient.  For speed and efficiency, nothing is as effective as letting a search service find marriage certificate information for you.

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How to Find your own Birth Records

Birth records are the most important documents you can have.  With them you can get a social security number, establish residence and citizenship, start a bank account and much more.  Without a birth certificate, you have to struggle to prove your identity to the government and other powers that be.  If you have lost your birth records, there's always some way to find them.

State Search of Birth Records

Each state keeps records of the births that occur within its boundaries.  There are exceptions.  For example, New York State keeps all records except New York City, Albany, Buffalo, and Yonkers.  You will want to contact the state of your birth to begin your search.

Documents Required for Birth Certificate

These records generally go back at least 100 years.  This means if you are searching for birth records as part of a genealogical search, the states are a good place to begin.  Each state has slightly different requirements, but basically you will need some identification, the date and location of the birth, and a letter explaining your request.

Finding your Roots--Adoption Records

Other than wanting your own birth records for personal proof, people search records for genealogy or when trying to track down birth parents.  For adoptees, the road to internal quietude can be a long one.

With any luck, they can find their birth parent’s names on original birth records.  While the states are supposed to change the certificate, sometimes a particularly understanding clerk will send the true original "by accident" furthering a search.

Recreating the Family Tree

For genealogy, birth records often provide parental names in previous generations that have long been forgotten.  You may know your grandmother as "Grandma Ruth" but have no idea what her maiden name was.  With a copy of your parent’s birth record, you have a chance of recovering that maiden name.

Reestablishing the Time Line of Ancestry

Particularly when doing a genealogical search it is important to have birth records to establish when things happened.  As a prime example, I present my grandmother.  We celebrated her 80th birthday for 3 years running.  Why?  Her original documents went up in flames years ago, she didn’t remember exactly when she was born, just approximately.  We wanted to cover all possible bases.

It may seem funny, but it is a remarkably common occurrence for original documents to disappear through fire, flood, or plain carelessness.  In some parts of our country and certainly in other countries as well, records were haphazard at best.  Eventually when someone dies, the "official" dates are reestablished.

To save yourself the headache of trying to figure out each state’s requirements, your best bet is to use an online search service.  Find your birth records quickly.  There is no reason this should be difficult.  An online vital records search service can access any public database and save you time and effort.

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How to Conduct a Birth Certificate Search Domestically and Internationally

If you need to find proof of citizenship or are simply looking to complete a family tree, a birth certificate search is in order.  Many good resources online can help you speed your search, but things differ from state to state and from country to country.  It can take some time, but the results are usually worth the work.

International Birth Certificates

For parents of internationally adopted children, get a certified copy at the time of adoption and guard it carefully.  It can be very difficult to obtain another copy, and you really do want the original for sentimental reasons as well.

Many countries now run online vital statistics websites.  Language can be a real barrier, though.  If you want to search a foreign database and don’t speak the language, you may try emailing to see if you can find an English speaker who is willing to be helpful at the vital statistics office.  Otherwise, if the search is of sufficient importance, you might want to look into utilizing the services of a translator for a few hours.

Searching in Europe can be both a positive and negative experience.  On the continent, many records were destroyed during the World Wars.  On the other hand, some records, especially church records, can go back quite far.  It is a mixed blessing.  You can even look through the 1292 of Paris.

Birth Certificates in the United States

While each state maintains birth records, the specifics of how and where change from state to state.  Some states keep records in a central vital records office, others allow specific cities to hold their own records separate from the State.  There is no consistent formula right now.The only way to deal with this is to contact the specific state you desire and find out.

Many states also offer fancy Heirloom birth certificates for a higher fee.  These certificates are colorful, declare the individual a native of their particular state, and generally make a better presentation.  They are, however, commemorative certificates and NOT legal documents, which means that they are fine for a family tree or decoration, but not for identification.

Find Old Birth Certificates in the US

If you are searching within the United States and are looking for older records, your best bet is to use a birth certificate search service.  They don’t need as much detail as the state, and you can cross-reference by including details that may not have entered the State’s consideration.  By applying your knowledge to the situation, you may have a better chance at locating your family’s history than some unknown clerk sitting half a dozen states away.

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