Tracking Down Family Documents

Discovering your family roots can be a difficult task, but thankfully a great many items are housed in a great many archives. For me, everything I need for Croatian research is held at the Državni Arhiv. The main office is in Zagreb, in one of the most beautiful buildings in the city (Google View), but you can access many arms of it throughout the country. So, that’s that and if you can’t find information there, then it probably doesn’t exist.
When trying to find information that does exist in the US, things can get trickier. Such was the case when I needed to round up copies of older birth certificates. My family members were born all over the country on both coasts. I’m not like some who have been in the same state for 10 generations or what have you. And that’s really a problem in that there is/was no Federal system that maintained birth records throughout the country. As time has passed, documents are getting more uniform with one another, but in the early part of the 20th century, everybody had their own “state style” making it hard to know what items were called or who you had to contact to get them.
“Dammit!”, I shouted to the heavens, “Why in this era of digital everything, can you not get vital records online?!!” Well, it appears that you can in the form of Vital Chek. It’s quite genius really. You just go in to the site, pick your state, state, city, and enter the information. They then pass this on to the vital statistics office where it needs to go and then you get the records you need a little down the road. How far down that road you’ll get them depends a lot on the place you’re requesting them for. One unfortunate side to this is that the site doesn’t really notify you that well when a retrieval request has failed. The other sticky point is that if you need to send in a copy of a death certificate to get a birth certificate, then you’ll have to do that the old-fashioned way and mail it by post.
It has made my this one crevice of my life a lot easier and I recommend it as a first go for anyone needing this kind of information in the USA.