When searching for vital statistics

When searching for vital statistics, start at the County Courthouse. If you can't visit the Courthouse in person copies of their records can be accessed via your local library, college libraries, state libraries, state archives,etc.

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At your local public library, go to the research librarian, tell her/him what you're looking for and ask how to search for records. I love librarians. They have a lot more resources than most of us know. For your state and college libraries, check their websites to learn what they have to offer and how to access their holdings. You may even be able to order their microfilm through your local library.

Now that you've ordered your microfilm and the librarian has shown you how to use the microfilm viewer remember to ask if you can make copies from the film youre ready to start searching it for information. What does a Register look like?

This Register contained a lot of information about my ancestors including that fact that both the bride and groom we're named Jones, which doubles my research troubles. (No, they weren't kin to each other so there's no need for any hillbilly jokes.) Dont expect this much information from all county Registers. I've seen marriage listings that had only the grooms name.

If you fail to find your ancestor in the Register you ordered, go through a second time to be certain you didn't miss anything. Its easy to overlook the very name you're looking for when looking at old handwriting. Even if I don't find the ancestor I'm looking for, I make notes on anyone with surnames from my family tree in case I need them later.

Below are a few hints for reading old Registers:

1. If you see an f that drops below the line, that usually means s. A double ff in a word also means an s. Any name that starts with a double ff may mean an F, but there are no guarantees. It might also mean S. Just be flexible when you see any f.

2. In Registers organized by months, check at the end of the year to see if anything was added for earlier months that may have been filed late at the courthouse. Also check at the beginning of the following year for the same reason.

3. An alphabetical listing doesn't mean everything is alphabetized correctly. Who knew that Cs might be listed with Ss and Fs with Ts? Names can also be spelled creatively. Example: I missed an ancestor named Orebach on several years of tax lists because it was being spelled Arebach. Some county clerks who get the whole alphabetical list perfect may include extra names at the very end which we're filed at the courthouse too late to be included in the original list, so always check at the end of each letter and especially after the Zs just to be certain you haven't missed those late additions.

4. Additional little notes added after your ancestors name, even if it doesn't make sense, should be added to your file. It must've meant something at the time and eventually you may figure it out and realize it's importance. It could be his occupation or may indicate where he lived in the county and was intended to differentiate between two men with the same name who lived in the same region.

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