Let’s take a look at how I go about requesting vital records and my process for recording what I’ve requested.
I was looking for two birth records and two death records. I believed these to be located in the City of Buffalo, New York. This was based on information from direct descendants, census records and cemetery information.
I began by using a search engine (I use Google) and finding a site for the City of Buffalo, Vital Records.
(Click on any image to enlarge it)
As you can see they tell you exactly what years they have available for all the records.
I knew I wanted birth records for 1893 and 1895 and death records for 1935 and 1950. Looks like I’m in luck according to their website.
Next, I downloaded the application. It looks like I will be able to submit all four record requests on this one page. Here is my filled out form, redacted to exclude my personal information.
NOTE: I always indicate my method of payment (in this case they wanted a money order) and the date that I mail my requests. I scan & save a copy digitally in Evernote. I used to save paper copies, but now do it all digitally. Another thing I have always done is keep track of the records I send for on an Excel spreadsheet. Mine dates back to 2000.
Here is a screenshot of my Excel spreadsheet for my records requests. This sheet has 131 entries on it. You can see that I can keep track of the cost and whether or not the record was received. I highlight in green if I did receive it and use red font if I don’t.
The title of the columns are:
- Date Requested
- Type of record
- Requested from
- Date Rec’d
- Questions/Problems or not rec’d
TIP: Sometimes the city, county or state will want you to include a self addressed, stamped envelope. In the case of the City of Buffalo, they did want one. I always put an extra stamp on the return envelope and my own return address label. If the record is large it could exceed the 1 oz. limit for a single stamp. With my own return address label on it, even if there is postage due, it will come to me.
The cost of these records vary greatly from state to state. I’ve paid as little as $5 for a Florida death record and as much as $36 recently for a death certificate from Michigan. It’s a whole lot cheaper if we can find what we want online. I will always exhaust an online search first. However, we all know there are millions of records not currently online and millions that may never be. I also take into consideration that sending for a record is much less expensive than flying or driving to a courthouse to get it.
Your other option is to find the microfilm that would have these records on it and order it from your local Family History Center.
So what have I paid over the years? Since 2000 I have spent $2,107. That’s $150.50 per year.
More records are online now than back in 2000. Let’s just look at the most recent 5 year span.
2010 = $42
2011 = $125
2012 = $146
2013 = $32.65
2014 = 95 (so far this year)
This cost certainly varies from year to year, depending on what I’m looking for.
Now, we wait. How long? I have no idea. I have waited days, weeks, months for a reply. Sometimes the reply is “no record found.” Always disappointing. And other times it’s like opening a Christmas present. You get exactly what you asked for.
I’ll tell you about the records I received from this request in my next post.
OTHER POSTS THAT MAY BE OF INTEREST
Church Records - How they can help you with your research
SURPRISE - A birth record where it wasn't supposed to be
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