Question of the Week: What challenges have you had finding birth/marriage/death records and what helped you find them?

+16 votes

What challenges have you had finding birth/marriage/death records and what helped you find them? Please share any sites that you have successfully used.

in The Tree House by Deborah Collier G2G6 Mach 3 (38.0k points)
There could be more hours in each day so that more records which are easily found at Family Search could be added as sources to profiles.  :)

10 Answers

+8 votes
Best answer
FamilySearch has been amazing in finding Vitals. Seeking Michigan as well with death certificates. Not everything is available though. Some records just don't seem to be there, but you also have to check sounds like names. Example: my 2nd gr. granddad Uriah DuBois, is incorrectly identified as Mariah, in a database between the handwriting of the person writing the document and the interpretation and transcription, indexing his record into the database. We still found it, so don't give up. Keep looking until you find them.
by Rod DuBois G2G6 Pilot (180k points)
edited by Rod DuBois
That problem doesn't just occur in birth and death records, but also in census reports and other documents.  The transcribers do a lot of work to decipher the handwritten documents, but sometimes they just fail.  Weird, isn't it?

Unusual names sometimes wind up with the wrong gender as well, listing a daughter as a son or vice versa.  People were not as literate as they are nowadays, so misspellings were more frequent.  It's not a garbage in, garbage out situation though.  The input information is relevant.  Then, if the relatives spoke or wrote a different language, the transcription misreading could get out of hand.
I agree with you, in my case, has been an invaluable source of information for vital records in the US and I've been able to obtain 70% of my information from the site.  I've also found data for specific surnames at the following url's:

Alford: The Corrington Loyal Alford Collection contains an amazing amount of information regarding the Alford family,

Ball: The New England Ball project site is an obligatory stop for anyone who is looking for Balls from New England,

MacLeod: In 2015, I obtained a lot of information from the Associated Clan MacLeod Societies, Genealogical Resource Centre (Indexed Data) but am sorry to say that currently the site appears to be defunct,

Edit: I haven't located an alternative for the MacLeods but much of the same information is reproduced at
Thank you Bonnie for providing these helpful links. They will be a great benefit to these families in future reference. I found the Alford and Ball sites to be particularly well organized and I really like the Alford logo. Cheers.
+10 votes
Let's face it.  The biggest problem is common surnames.  On my mom's side I have Millers, Evanses and Clarks.  The all moved to Licking County, Ohio along with some Prudens, Conrads and Frenches.  I ended up creating "Millers of Licking County", "Evanses of Licking County" and "Clarks of Licking County", though I didn't go beyond the 1900 Censuses and didn't finish the Clarks.  But if you don't have something like that, trying to figure out if you have the proper family and which Samuel Clark is from your line and which either is only a distant relative or not a relative at all is a real problem.  

As for vital records, I think you have to work first on where you find your ancestors and relatives.  If you do that you can then go looking for the records for that area.  Sometimes or Family search are enough, but sometimes you'll have to look for a county genealogical society which has published books or go to a major library and find "A History of X County"  which will give you family histories of the people who lived there in the time period you're interested in.
by Dave Dardinger G2G6 Pilot (407k points)
+10 votes
Faulty transcriptions and common names. Judith for Judah!

The best help I've had is from the wills of siblings who leave money to people you have never heard of. Then they turn out to be her children under her married name.

Family Search has occasionally pushed me in the right direction, but Ancestry,co,uk's records have been much more help.

In the end the best help came from local record offices.
by anonymous G2G6 Pilot (256k points)
+8 votes
I was never able to find my wife's grandfather Albert Taylor until I finally could convince a county clerk to let me take a look at the register myself. He was recorded as Tailer and when I got to the church listed on his marriage registration I found him as Tailleur - and from there on back to French Canadian sources.
by Helmut Jungschaffer G2G6 Pilot (542k points)
+6 votes
The Susquehanna Company and the Connecticut Settlers are a real monkey wrench for me. Northeast PA Births, Deaths and Marriages performed during this timeframe can be recorded as both PA and Connecticut. For ex. between 1780'ish and 1815'ish, a "Plymouth" designation could mean Plymouth PA OR Plymouth Connecticut. Not to mention  Plymouth Mass. A Essential resource for me is the PA county evolution Map. It includes the Connecticut county and townships in the slides.
heres the link.- its through old school Rootsweb.

by Tamara Flora G2G6 (6.2k points)
edited by Tamara Flora
+5 votes

Well, it's a real challenge finding the LNABs of the brides when the marriage records for a parish in a certain period just are a list of the grooms, like for Fellingsbro in 1692:

  • Lars Persson i Finnåker
  • Per Ersson i Nybble
  • Anders Kiämpe i Ålsänge
  • Christopher i Toje
  • Lars Olsson i Skölberga
  • etc

The marriage records are normally the place where you can find the full name of Swedish women way back - in the household records they usually appear only by first name, in birth records for their children often not at all, and in their death record often only as "wife of" or "widow of". Makes you grateful for the long departed clerics who did mention wives by their full name at least once.

by Eva Ekeblad G2G6 Pilot (410k points)
+7 votes

My biggest problem so far is with misspelled/mis-transcribed surnames in the indexes (and, less often, in the actual documents).

For example, one of my great-great-grandmothers was an Ellermeyer.  I've seen it spelled "Ellenmyer", "Ellemeyer", "Ellermyer", "LLemyer"... and none of the variations are tied together.

Another one is Paduch.  Some records spell it that way, but others spell it "Paddock", "Paduck", "Paduch" - those are the ones I've found so far.  Again, none of the variations come up together.

What has helped:

  • Wildcards
  • Searching for first name + birth date
  • Searching for other family members in the same household
  • Searching for the address where the person was known to live at the time 
by Vicky Majewski G2G6 Mach 7 (76.7k points)
+5 votes
I am the first-born son. I line with Latvian tradition, family history and archived materials were passed on to me. Both parents have passed on. Thank goodness, the records they provided are detailed and complete. They are invaluable as I start writing about my life in a family context.
by Raymond Lasmanis G2G Crew (350 points)
+5 votes
My gggrandfather's brother Charles, according to a respected book on Afrikaner families, was born on board while his widowed mother sailed back to the Cape after her husband's death. His death notice says "Born in New Zealand".  The New Zealand BMD in 2009 listed three Laurie babies born in 1859: "Samuel Lawton" with the correct (well, nearly so) parents, and "Margaret' and "Samuel L.", both without parents but labelled "Auck.". No Charles, so the shipboard theory might be correct, but that would get us into even deeper waters.

Auckland is on the wrong island, so I formed the theory that the clerk who did the transcription was distracted and wrote the same name twice. The New Zealnd BMD service does you a hardcopy, which turned out to be just the computerized information printed nicely. They kindly checked the handwritten index books, where the baby was still Samuel, but said that the trial stops there: the registers form which the index books were compiled had been lost.

This year (i.e. 2016) I revisited the New Zealnd site and discovered that Samuel L. was gone and Margaret had parents. They clearly had discovered a better index book for Auckland than the one they used before. My theory no longer explained where the name Samuel Lawton came from, and I had to face the facts: the baby was christened under a different name to the one under which its birth was registered.

I mentioned the matter to a friend of mine in New Zealand, hoping that he might know where church records for Lyttelton in 1860 might be available. He is a keen yachtsman, and told me, just so that I might know what an intrepid gggrandmother I had, that in those days only sailing vessels visited New Zealand and they all travelled one way: eastwards. She could not have sailed back to the Cape via Australia. She had to go via London, where all her in-laws lived.

This insight removed some mental blocks, and I soon looked in the right places, which I previously had dismissed as impossible.
by Dirk Laurie G2G6 Mach 3 (35.7k points)
+5 votes
I have been researching my ancestry since 2004! For so many years I have been attempting to find the Death Certificate of my paternal uncle. Every source I found, mostly on Ancestry trees, showed the death year and that was all! A few months ago I took the leap and contacted the Canadian Archives directly with all the pertinent information I had gathered through my research. A couple of weeks later, the much awaited email and the copy of his death record arrived. What had been the problem? His name at birth, a very ancient-sounding name indeed, was so different than the name he was known by all his life! In fact, a second cousin of mine who is advanced in genealogical research, contacted me with her doubts as to the veracity of this death certificate. I replied to her and confirmed that the information was correct. A couple of days later, she contacted me again and stated that she had followed the route I had taken and congratulated me on my finding!

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