Book Review: International Vital Records Handbook

The following book review was written by Bobbi King:

International Vital Records Handbook
By Thomas Jay Kemp. Genealogical Publishing Co. 2017. 756 pages.

Sooner or later, we all need to order vital records. Often from vital records offices far away from our homes. So we need to find the address, find out what they have, what is the time frame for the extant records, and how much do they cost.

Nowadays it’s even more involved than it used to be. Increased security concerns since 2001 have increased the hassle of providing identification and restriction of records that used to be easier to obtain.

This Vital Records Handbook has a printed form and information on each vital records office for each state of the United States. Each state section has that state’s application form for each record, i.e., an application form for a birth record, another page with the form for requesting a marriage record; however many forms you’ll need, there are pages for. You can scan or copy the page and use it to send in a request for the record you need.

Each state section has information as to when the state began collecting the records and where they are reposited. There are details of where to find vital records that are not at the vital records office.

For example, the Vermont section explains that the state did not collect vital records, reliably, before 1909. Vermont law enacted in 1779 required the collection of vital records, but by the offices of the town clerks. So there’s an explanation about how and where to find pre-1909 vital records. Plus lots of related information about finding vital records, such as online sources and historical societies, is provided.

But this is the International Vital Records Handbook. Not only are the United States covered, but so are the U.S. Territories and Commonwealths (6 of them), and foreign countries (I counted 196). Recovering vital records outside the U.S. is problematic, what with no established central civil registration authorities, war-ravaged record-storage facilities, and political obstacles. Vital Records does a good job of assisting the researcher providing information and direction. There is only a half-page devoted to Poland, but I thought it was enough to get a researcher going.

I honestly don’t know if I’d spend the money just to have this book, but this book should certainly be in your local library and available. Maybe buy the book and donate it to your local genealogy library?

International Vital Records Handbook by Thomas Jay Kemp is available from the publisher at as well as from Amazon at:


One Comment

The Family tree form shown in today’s blog is also used by I have used it and I was very happy with the outcome.


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