Published July 10, 2017

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The 7th edition of the International Vital Records Handbook is now available.

Thomas Jay Kemp has had a varied career in the larger genealogical world, especially in the library portion of that world.

He’s been in charge of the two largest genealogical libraries in the Northeast – the New England Historic Genealogical Society and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania – before becoming director of genealogy products at the major subscription service GenealogyBank.

And despite a biography that includes several dozen genealogy books and hundreds of articles, maybe his seminal credential is compiling one of family history’s “door stopper” tomes, the , now in its seventh edition from Genealogical Publishing Company.

Going state by U.S. state and then around the world, the handbook always has been “one-stop shopping” for forms, rules and regulations regarding the civil records of births, marriages, deaths and divorces.

The new edition of the handbook is billed as “a resource that is even more valuable today than it was when it was first published.” That might be a bit of hyperbole since much of the American information is available on websites from the repositories and institutions that are the custodians of the records, but if you’re a “Gutenberg person” (yes, like your “Roots & Branches” columnist, at least by half!) who likes reading from paper rather than a screen, then this book should be on your shelf.

The handbook includes updates for people seeking their own records as adoptees (which often carry special rules and restrictions) as well as changes to access that have happened in many states (Pennsylvania, for instance, finally in 2012 made birth and death certificates into public records after blackout periods of 105 years and 50 years, respectively).

This edition contains:

  • the latest application forms and ordering information for each of the fifty states and, where available, for the other countries of the world;
  • details about records that were created prior to statewide vital records registration;
  • information on which records are restricted and for how long, and whether “informational” or uncertified copies of records are available to genealogy researchers;
  • locations of vital records collections, online databases, and institutions of interest to genealogy researchers;
  • adoption search contact information and, where available, pre-adoption birth record and adoption search applications;
  • key addresses of repositories or embassies that might help you obtain copies of vital records in countries where neither a centralized vital records registration system nor a vital records application form is available.


International Vital Records Handbook, 7th Edition, 756 pages, $84.95 (Genealogical Publishing Company, Baltimore, MD: 2017). Order at or by calling (800) 296-6687. Mailing address is 3600 Clipper Mill Road, Suite 260, Baltimore, MD 21211.