5 Steps to Finding Records on Vitalsearch

By Rick Crume Premium
Vitalsearch <> typifies the state of online vital records: The Web site contains a bonanza of crucial birth, death and marriage data, but extracting those details can prove difficult. Though professional and amateur genealogists laud Vitalsearch for its exclusive data (especially California and Texas indexes), visitors often find its lousy navigation and intrusive advertising annoying. The company’s posted telephone number — a (900) exchange, which bills the call to you — also makes some genealogists leery. But you don’t have to pony up a credit card number to mine most of Vitalsearch’s databases. With patience — and the help of this step-by-step guide — you’ll have no problem getting at the good stuff.

1. First, go to <> and register for a free “guest pass.” You’ll receive a login name and password by e-mail.

2. From the Vitalsearch home page, click on the name of a state with a green check mark in the births, marriages, divorces or deaths column, such as California. After clicking through an ad page, you’ll go to that state’s “portal.” In the box for state-specific data, select the index you want to search — we’ll choose State Death Indices — then hit the Go button.

3. Select a database, such as the 1905 to 1929 California death index, from the resulting menu page. Enter your guest name and password. To start searching this index, you enter a surname and press Begin Search. Some databases let you search on additional fields, including age, date and county.

4. Depending on your selected database, the site will display either search results or — as shown here — an index page. Click “go to page” to view the corresponding microfiche image.

5. The index page lists the images alphabetically, but you’ll likely have to browse to find the right one (note that each time you close an image window, you’ll get a Web page promoting paid memberships). If you find your relative, you can right-click the image to save it to your hard drive (select the Save As or Download to Disk option).

6. Once you’ve saved the image, go back to the index page and click the Field Descriptions link to find out what the codes on the microfiche mean.
From the June 2005 Family Tree Magazine