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Wanted: Volunteers to index Virginia vital records!

The Library of Virginia houses an extensive collection of vital records, including birth and death records, 1853-1896, and marriage records, 1853-1935. Genealogists and family historians know the value of these records as a starting place for researching their ancestors, but until now, most of these records and associated indexes have only been accessible on microfilm, requiring a visit to the reading room at the Library. Thanks to a joint effort between Ancestry and FamilySearch, that is all about to change.

Over the past year, the Library of Virginia has worked with Ancestry to scan and digitize 176 reels of microfilm from our collection of birth, death, and marriage registers. These registers document important events in the lives of Virginians, and include names, dates, places, and family relationships. These records may also include other potentially valuable clues to further your research, including previous marital status, occupations, and the name of officiant for marriage ceremonies. Antebellum records also include the names of slave owners, which may assist in tracing enslaved individuals. For historical context concerning the collection of these records, and for more information about coverage and data found within each type of register, please see Research Notes Number 2: Using Vital Statistics Records in the Archives at the Library of Virginia and Birth, Death and Marriage Registers on Microfilm.

As part of a larger collaboration designed to expand online access to historical records, Ancestry and FamilySearch have partnered to index these vital records and make the images available online. Currently, birth and death registers are available for indexing through the FamilySearch indexing portal, with marriage records coming up in the next few months. If you are interested in helping to help make these valuable records available online, please consider assisting with this indexing project. In order to volunteer, you will need to set up a free FamilySearch account if you do not already have one. Once you have logged in, select Indexing at the top of the page, and then Web Indexing. Use the blue Find Batches button and simply type in Virginia to locate any Virginia indexing projects. Select Index and read the project instructions to get started. FamilySearch also provides helpful tutorials and additional indexing assistance and we have included screenshot at the bottom of this post to help you get started.

Once indexing has been completed, the birth, death and marriage registers will be fully searchable online at both Ancestry and FamilySearch. These records are an incredible resource for researchers and online searching capability will open these records up worldwide, so please consider joining the indexing effort if you have the time. The faster they are indexed, the sooner they will be accessible!

Paige Neal

Senior State Records Archivist

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