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Sample Letters for Genealogical Inquiries

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Ordering a Vital Record

If you are writing to the county for records created before state registrations were required, try the example shown below. Don't unnecessarily limit the date when requesting a marriage record. Judge a span of time from the birth dates of children but allow enough leeway, perhaps 5 to 10 years.

    [Your name and address]


    Register of Marriages
    [Courthouse Address here]

    Dear Marriage Registrar:

    I would like to order a photocopy of the marriage application (or license) and certificate for:

    Joseph Cruse (or Kruse) to Virginia Malley, about 1860-1867

    Please let me know the cost and I will remit promptly. [Or, if you prefer, enclose a small check.]

    I enclose an SASE for reply, and thank you for your assistance.


Dear Cousin …

If you are writing to a relative for the first time, introduce yourself. Let them know your purpose and what it is you are seeking. You could include a family group sheet with the letter, which may pique interest, but don't flood the cousin with data at this point of the contact.

    [Your name and address]


    [His or her name and address]

    Dear [ ],

    I have been working on the family history for two years, and just found out from a relative that you and I are related as second cousins. We both are great-grandchildren of George Milliken and his wife Susan Masters. My family is through their daughter Jane, who married Jesse Cooper. My mother told me that she lost track of your family after your parents moved—about 30 years ago. I am delighted to now be in touch.

    I was told your grandparents passed away many years ago. Can you tell me when and where they died, and where they are buried?

    I have also been hoping to find someone with a photo of our great-grandparents, George and Susan. Do you have one that can be copied or do you know of anyone in the family who does?

    It would be a delight to hear from you and to exchange information about our families.

    Your cousin,

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Genealogy © 2005 by Christine Rose and Kay Germain Ingalls. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.

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