Life events like birth, death and marriage documented and kept under the custody of the government in the form of certificates are called VITAL RECORDS. Vital records may vary from one jurisdiction to other. In some jurisdiction Vital records include civil unions or domestic partnership. In USA vital records are available both at the county and state level. In UK and many other countries, vital records are in the custody of civil registry.
The development of the system of recording vital records evolves gradually. Until 20th Century, the entries of life events very brief and often highly inadequate. In places like New England during the colonial America, town clerics used to record vital information. Alas! they were incomplete. The federal government did not register vital records. Only in case of American born outside the country were recorded in embassies or consulates. From early 20th Century, the life events started getting recorded in the form of certificates. Thus a definite format of information emerged.
Marriage records was the first life event started getting recorded with the local governments. As counties and towns were established, marriage records started getting recorded.Local laws were enacted to make marriage registration mandatory with the civil record irrespective of the fact whether the marriage is solemnized in the church or elsewhere.
Subsequently, the local health department in big cities started recording birth and deaths by mid 19th Century. Balimore, for instance, has records from 1875, Boston from 1639, New Orleans from 1790, New York since 1847, and Philadelphia since 1860. However, majority of these early records are inadequate and often incomplete.
Resources & Collections Free Ancestry Collections | Update on May 23, 2018