Ancestry.com

How Do I Know if a Vital Record Exists?

Posted by Anne Gillespie Mitchell on August 15, 2013 in Reference Desk

Wouldn’t it be nice if all of our ancestors had birth, marriage and death records? And shouldn’t those records clearly and accurately state places and dates and relationships that will quickly grow our tree?

Yes. In a perfect world.  And genealogy is not a perfect world.

I know from census records that Wyatt Paul Gillespie and Laura Cecile Donald were most likely married between 1893 and 1896 in either Rockbridge or Amherst County, Virginia.

So were marriage records kept then? Let’s look at the Family History Wiki on Ancestry.com. You’ll find a link to it at the bottom of the Learning Center tab:

Family History Wiki

 

Click through and look at the left hand side. Since we are looking for information on specific counties, we can click on County research:

image02

 

Which will lead you to the United States County List:

United States County List

And now we can take a closer look at the Counties of Amherst and Rockbridge.

The County of Amherst tells us that Amherst County began keeping marriage records in 1763. You’ll find the same information for Rockbridge County.

Amherst County, Virginia

You also see that there is a link to Virginia Family History Research, which has a link on the right to Virginia Vital Records. This page tells us that after 1853 state law required counties to issue marriage licenses and keep marriage registers. And they should contain full names, ages, places of birth and residence, proposed marriage date and place, marital status and a few other goodies. Now this is a useful vital record!

Virginia Vital Records

Vital records are kept by state, not at the federal level, so we should probably start on a state page. You can find them on the map at the bottom of the Search Tab.

If we go to the Virginia page, we see the first few entries for Virginia, Birth, Marriage and Death, do not have what we are after. So we can click the “View All” link.

View All Virginia BMD

 

This shows us that there are two data collections that may have what we are after, and yes, those are really two different data collections.

View All VA BMD

 

The first, you will find – after looking at the description – has Marriage Records for Rockbridge and the second doesn’t have records for either.

And if you do a search in the first, you will find no entry for Wyatt and Laura! But why? Look at the description and we’ll learn why. The records for this data collection only go up to 1885, and we are pretty sure that Wyatt and Laura were married between 1893 and 1896.

 

Rockbridge  County

 

So the marriage record exists somewhere, probably the courthouse.  It just hasn’t worked it’s way onto Ancestry.com yet.

Now you might be asking yourself, why not just search and see what you find? And you can do that. But it saves you a bit of time if you know whether you are looking for something that exists. If your searches keep coming up blank, it’s good to know why.

Want to learn more?  Watch Crista Cowan’s What Genealogy Records Exist?, part of her Barefoot Genealogist series on YouTube.

Happy Searching!

About Anne Gillespie Mitchell
Anne Gillespie Mitchell is a Senior Product Manager at Ancestry.com. She is an active blogger on Ancestry.com and writes the Ancestry Anne column. She has been chasing her ancestors through Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina for many years. Anne holds a certificate from Boston University's Online Genealogical Research Program, and is currently on the clock working towards certification from the Board for Certification of Genealogists. You can also find her on Twitter, Facebook and Finding Forgotten Stories.

5 comments

Comments
1 Barbara WylyAugust 15, 2013 at 6:48 pm

How would I find a record for a “bound child” born in 1801 in Virginia and living as a bound child in TN when she met her husband circa 1815-1820? Would probate records tell us? We have no clue as to what county in Virginia or who her parents are, except for her unusual first Name “Diviin”. She has a very common last name-Sullivan. She was bound to a man named Pendergast.

Also, are there any means other than Bible records for locating a birth record of a man named Robert Walker born in 1812 in Virginia, no county known, but most likely Campbell or Buckingham as his family moved that year to TN with another family who had lived in those counties? We can’t find a father for this man, but his mother was Nancy Walker born October 1795 according to her tombstone. We don’t know if Walker was a maiden or a married name. We are not aware of a family relationship between Nancy and the other families she travelled with. They may have been a church group.

2 Janet WeeksAugust 15, 2013 at 7:00 pm

I have part of my tree in the Weeks tree my husband started; then I started my Godfrey tree separate to make it easier or me to work. In both my family that I incorporated in the Weeks tree and my Godfrey I have several people who came from Virginia as in your example. So that was all helpful. I had never used the link you were speaking about; so I will start trying to uncover more of my genealogy needs with it. Thanks so much for having this on Facebook that I found when scanning through that this evening. I really like to use Ancestry.com.

3 Ancestry AnneAugust 16, 2013 at 10:27 am

Thanks Janet! I’m glad you found the post helpful.

Barbara, that’s a tough one. When did the man she was bound to die? If it was before she married, maybe she might be mentioned in his probate records. Also, check the genealogy or historical society in the county in Tennessee. Ask if they know of existing records that might help you determine more about Diviin.

Your hunch that Robert Walker came from Campbell or Buckingham based on the migration patterns is a very reasonable one, and one that should be followed up. One suggestion is to identify Walker families in Campbell and Buckingham in the 1820 census who have a child that age. (And if they have already migrated at that point, I guess that doesn’t work :-) ) Do you know any of Robert’s brothers and/or sisters? Tracking them might lead you to an answer. Once you get back to the early 1800′s and before, the challenge is much higher to find the answers you are looking for. Good luck!

4 Larry Ross SmithAugust 16, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Thank you. I found this article very helpful.

L

5 JillSeptember 9, 2013 at 11:35 am

There is no Learning Center on AncestryLibrary edition, which is the only kind of Ancestry I use at my local library. How do I find that information using AncestryLibrary?

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