Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Tuesday's Tip: Use the California Birth Index, 1905-1995

The record collection for the California Birth Index, 1905-1995 is one of my favorite record collections.  It is available online at:

Ancestry.com:        24,591,169 entries (Subscription)

FamilySearch.org: 24,589,478 entries (Free)

MyHeritage.com:  49,184,449 entries (Subscription)

The description of the California Birth Index, 1905-1995 collection on Ancestry.com says (typical for a state collection):
This database is an index to over 24.5 million births occurring in California between 1905 and 1995. Information contained in this index includes:
  • Child's name (names may be truncated at 8 letters)
  • Gender
  • Birth date
  • Birth county
  • Mother's maiden name (names may be truncated at 8 letters)
If possible, it is important that you use the information found in this index to order a copy of the birth certificate, as the certificate may provide additional information about the child or the parents. For information on how to order a copy of a birth certificate, visit the VitalChek website.
Vital records in California have been kept by the state registrar of vital statistics since 1 July 1905. Earlier vital records are entered in the county where the event took place. Pre-1905 records in the counties may be quite slim. In Sacramento County, for example, only three births were entered for the period 1858 and 1874, and only forty-three deaths between 1858 and 1864. Marriages, on the other hand, seem to have been recorded more regularly. Some court-ordered delayed birth certificates have been registered by the state registrar. For all vital records, contact the California Department of Health Services, Office of Vital Records, 304 "S" St., Sacramento, CA 95814 (Mailing address: P.O. Box 730241, Sacramento, CA 94244-0241). There is no statewide index that includes the pre-1905 records held by counties; however, the Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City has microfilm copies of many pre-1905 California vital records.
Vital records can be great sources of genealogical information. Besides providing the name of the person for whom the record was created, vital records can provide a wealth of other information. Birth records will generally, but not always, contain the following information: Child--name, birthplace, date of birth, sex, hospital, time of birth; Father--name, race, birthplace, age, occupation; Mother--name, race, birthplace, age, occupation, residence, term of residence in the community, term of pregnancy, marital status, number of other living children, number of other deceased children, number of children born dead.
Modern (post-1910) birth records are maintained by the states. They are extremely valuable, but many researchers, learning birth information from home sources, fail to obtain birth certificates. This reluctance is most unfortunate and can result in an inaccurate or incomplete family genealogy. Modern birth records contain much more information than earlier records. Although birth certificates vary from state to state, most of them share much information in common.
Here is an example from the FamilySearch birth record for one person:

I don't understand why MyHeritage has almost exactly twice as many indexed records at Ancestry and FamilySearch.  Perhaps they index the mother's maiden name in addition to the child's name?

I searched each record provider for some of my exact surnames of interest.  The results are:

*  Seaver               261 (on Ancestry)        501 (on Family Search)        501  (on MyHeritage)
*  Seavers             101 (on Ancestry)        196 (on Family Search)        196  (on MyHeritage)
*  Seever                 63 (on Ancestry)        112 (on Family Search)        112  (on MyHeritage)
*  Seevers             182 (on Ancestry)        321 (on Family Search)        321  (on MyHeritage)
*  Sever                 149 (on Ancestry)       320 (on Family Search)        320  (on MyHeritage)
*  Severs               110 (on Ancestry)        247 (on Family Search)        247  (on MyHeritage)

*  Carringer            22 (on Ancestry)          41 (on Family Search)          41  (on MyHeritage)
*  Caringer             15 (on Ancestry)          25 (on Family Search)          25  (on MyHeritage)

*  Auble                 82 (on Ancestry)        163 (on Family Search)        163  (on MyHeritage)

*  Vaux                  35 (on Ancestry)          84 (on Family Search)          84  (on MyHeritage)

*  Smith       174,522 (on Ancestry)  348,399 (on FamilySearch)  348,399  (on MyHeritage)

Again, there is a dilemma.  Although Ancestry and FamilySearch have significantly different numbers on the take above, but have almost exactly the same total number of records.  Perhaps FamilySearch is counting indexed names, but Ancestry is not.  The MyHeritage numbers are exactly the same as FamilySearch (my recollection is that they obtained this indexed collection from FamilySearch), but almost exactly twice the number of records.   After a check of random records for the same person on FamilySearch and Ancestry, I see that FamilySearch and MyHeritage include the mother's maiden name in their counts, but Ancestry does not.  That explains this dilemma, I think.

It is important to understand what this collection represents and includes.  This is an index of birth records for persons born in California between 1905 and 1995.  It was obtained from birth records recorded in each county which were forwarded year-by-year to the Vital Records Department.  

In these records, only the child's name is provided in full.  The mother's maiden surname is often provided, but the father's first and last names are not provided.  Sometimes the mother's maiden name is the same as the child's last name, which may reflect an out-of-wedlock birth, or a married surname.  A birth date for the child is provided, and the county where the child was registered.  

A birth certificate reflecting what is in the county records and the state vital records database can be obtained from the specific county, or in Sacramento, the state capital, for a fee (a "not for identification purposes" notice is printed on birth certificates when ordered for persons who are not the person of interest).

These records are Derivative Source (the Original Source is the county birth record), Primary Information (since it reflects birth information recorded at or near the date of birth), and Direct Evidence of the person's name, birth date and birth county.  

I use this database extensively to find my ancestors, my relatives, and other persons in my family tree.  I obtain birth certificates for my ancestors only because of the cost involved.  The RootsMagic program I use accesses WebHints on Ancestry, MyHeritage and FamilySearch that include the California Birth Index, 1905-1995.


NOTE:  Tuesday's Tips is a genealogy blog meme intended to provide information about a resource helpful to genealogists and family historians, especially in the online genea-world.

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