Managing vital records

Vital records of events such as birth, marriage, divorce and death are essential to demonstrate who is in your family and the relationships between them. Depending on the time period and location, vital records may include church records such as baptisms, marriages and burials; and civil records such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, death certificates, divorce records, wills and probate documents.

Since these records are so essential in family history, we need to take steps to manage them efficiently.

Step 1: Review your documentation and determine which vital records you already have for each person in your family tree, or for each person in family groups on your direct line.

Step 2: If you use family history software, scan the records and upload them as media to the relevant person(s). If you have a paper based system, place a printed copy in the folder of the relevant person(s). Keeping vital records with other records and information about a person makes further research much easier.

Step 3: Create a centralised master list of vital records, or update it if you already have one. A master list helps you keep track of which records you have already obtained and which you still need to obtain. This list can help you prioritise which ones you want to purchase next and reduce the likelihood that you will accidentally purchase records that you already have.

Step 4: Update your research plans by adding tasks of obtaining the vital records you are still missing.

Step 5: Consider donating a copy of your vital records to your family history society to assist other researchers.

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