Vital records are the mainstay of late nineteenth century family history research and all of twentieth century research. Yet if the genealogist is not careful, they can easily pay more for these records than necessary.
Generally speaking, the best approach to try is:Family History Library
(time coverage won't always be complete, but they are a good place to start)County Offices
(Recorder, Clerk, or whomever records vital records at the local level).--there records should be complete for the time span when records were maintained.State Archives
--they may have older records.State Department of Health
(State Department of Vital Records, etc.)--they may have some records, but perhaps not always the oldest ones.
Prices can vary from one state to another. Family History Library may be the least expensive option. State Department of Health usually is the most expensive. There are places that will charge you $50 and more for a record. These options listed above are always more than that. Order the record from the Family History Library (if they have the records) or from one of the "official" agencies listed above.
Samples of vital records on our site:
I've gotten copies of hundreds of vital records during my family history searches. I've always used one of the places above--or in a couple of cases had a private researcher do it for me as a part of a larger project. If you think the price is high, post a message about vital records in that county or state before you order to the appropriate mailing list at Rootsweb
the message boards at Ancestry.com
. Someone probably can give you specific directions or suggestions.