07 April 2010

How Vital Is VitalSearch?

As a Californian, I'm often looking for records for my state and know that VitalSearch seems to have a fair amount of them. I've thought of subscribing to it for a long time but I was never sure exactly what they had. I compiled a rough table to lay it out in a readable fashion and thought I would share it here. Note that there may be errors in the table since I do not have a subscription and could only go by what I could make out in the samples.

Finding records on VitalSearch is crude and unwieldy. A few of the collections have a "robust SQL search" capability but most are what they term "primitive search" which is actually paging through copies of microfilm. (Click to see actual size.) You are usually started at the first page of that surname, so although it is "primitive," it is usable.

Some of the collections have pages that are blurry and hard to read. Check out the sample pages on the VitalSearch site as they show a realist view of what you get.

Everyone who does research in California should know that the death index for 1905-1929 is free for anyone to use. Some of the other databases used to be available for free but in the last few years became part of the subscribers-only area.

The cost for a subscription to VitalSearch is $57.95 a year. That seems a bit steep to me; Ancestry costs almost 3 times that but has a bazillion times more records, let alone the best search online. But if VitalSearch has the collection I really need, it could be worth it. Maybe I'll sign up for the 90-day subscription for $25.

The table is laid out by state then county. Type is Index / Record. I added a column to show overlap in records on Ancestry.com since I have a subscription to it. Click the table then zoom to enlarge.

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