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If you are doing research into Alabama genealogy, you may be able to find records and material from 1880. The state started keeping records in 1908 so the documents after that date are more complete.
Alabama Vital Records
Getting copies of documentation for various events in a person's life is one of the main places for genealogical information. These are called "vital records" and include birth, death and marriage certificates.
You can make requests to get certified copies of these documents, from the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH). Their Vital Records department holds this material and you can make a request, provided you are eligible to have a copy. There are privacy restrictions which make some documents confidential.
The hardest to get are birth records. They are confidential for 125 years after the date of birth, unless you are a direct relative (parent, child, sibling or spouse). After 125 years, than your relation to the person is not important. There are similar restrictions on death records, except that the time frame is only 25 years. Marriage records have no restrictions at all, and are considered fully public records.
If you are permitted to make the request, you can get the forms from the ADPH website and print them out yourself. You will have to provide all the identifying information for the people on the record, as well as contact details for yourself. Then, you can send your forms to the Vital Records office in Montgomery. If you have one nearby, you can also take your forms in person to the local county health department office. They can issue records for any county.
With the forms, you do need to supply the current request fee. It will cost you $15 for each copy of any vital records, and the fee is not refunded if they are not able to locate the exact record you've requested.
When visiting a local office, you will get your Alabama genealogy paperwork returned while you wait (more or less) but there will be a delay of 1 to 2 weeks if you are sending your forms in by mail. They can access records from 1908 until the present. If you need documents prior to 1908, then direct your request to the county health office rather than the Vital Records office.
State Archives and Other Resources
Alabama genealogy does go beyond the Vital Records office, and there are other places where you can continue your research. Their collection includes some county vital records (on microfilm) as well as newspaper archives (both on microfilm and not), old maps, church records, Civil War material, voter's registration and more. If you visit their website, you can do a number of different records searches right online but you typically cannot see the actual documents that way. They only let you search indexes, which can speed up your searching when you visit in person.
Another source of Alabama genealogy information is the Alabama Genealogy Society. They are the largest one in the state, but there are smaller groups for each county and a few others for regions within the state (such as the Tennessee Valley Genealogy Society or Northeast Alabama Genealogy Society). By sharing information with other genealogy researchers, you can gather unique data that is not found anywhere else.
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