Working with Birth Indexes

As genealogists, we continually work with indexes.  Indexes drive the majority of the searches we conduct on our favorite genealogy websites.  The 1940 Census is currently un-indexed, meaning we can not look up (search) for a relative’s name to quickly locate the desired record.  Without indexes, our searches tend to be time-consuming and tedious.  Indexes usually occur in two forms:  digital (online, usually searchable) and in printed form (a book or publication).

There are many indexes dedicated to locating the birth date and place of a person.  Birth indexes are not limited to just birth records, but include:  baptism or christening index, a newspaper birth announcement index, hospital birth notices, etc.

GenDetective sample national birth index

National Birth Indexes

Few birth indexes are available on a national basis.  Instead there are state, county and church specific indexes.  The county and church indexes make up the majority of birth indexes available to genealogists.  Many of these indexes are starting the online migration process. The vast majority are only available in book form at the local genealogical society where your ancestors were born, or by ordering a copy from the local society.

GenDetective State Birth Index report
State Birth Index

To aid in working with birth indexes, GenDetective includes a series of birth index reports that reflect the geographic basis of most birth indexes, including year ranges.  These reports are:

  • Birth index for this country
  • Birth index for this state
  • Birth index for this county

Since it is very difficult to create a birth index for a specific congregation, instead substitute the “Birth index for this county” report.

Looking at each of these GenDetective reports, you may notice that each report includes the word may in its title:  “People Who May Have Been Born in …”.  GenDetective will

GenDetective County Birth Index report

Birth Index Report

include any person whom you know was born in the locale and include any people who lived in the locale, but whose birth location (and possibly date) you do not know!  This provides a comprehensive list to compare to any birth index.

Before planning a research trip to a local genealogical society or national archive, look at their card catalog to identify any birth related indexes in their collection.  Run a report that matches each of the indexes. Yes, you may have several reports, but think about how quickly you will be able to check each index. These will ultimately direct you to the records you really want to examine!

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