Virginia Vital Records

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Vital Records consist of births, adoptions, marriages, divorces, and deaths recorded on registers, certificates, and documents. United States Vital Records has additional research guidance on researching and using vital records. A copy or an extract of most original records can be purchased from the Virginia Vital Records State Department of Health or the County Clerk's office of the county where the event occurred.

Vital Records Collage.JPG

Vital Records Reference Dates[edit | edit source]

Virginia's civil records start the following years:

Birth County Marriages Deaths
Earliest 1853-1896 1706 1853-1896
Statewide Registration 1912 1853 1912
General Compliance late 1917 1853 late 1917

Online Birth, Marriage and Death Records for Virginia[edit | edit source]

Birth[edit | edit source]

Marriage[edit | edit source]

Death[edit | edit source]

City & County Databases[edit | edit source]

African Americans[edit | edit source]

Divorce[edit | edit source]

Birth and Death Records[edit | edit source]

Few births were recorded by civil authorities before 1853. You may find some information on pre-1853 births and deaths in genealogies, histories, church and Bible records, and collections of personal papers.

From 1853 to 1896, the state required county officials to record births and deaths. Abstracts are available online. Microfilm copies are available at the Library of Virginia (site includes a Death Registers Index[1] and a Guide for Using the Collections) and the Family History Library FHL Films 2026327-52, 2046907.

Registration of births and deaths was not required between 1896 and 14 June 1912, but the health departments of some cities kept birth and death records during that period. Delayed birth registrations for the years 1896-1912 are available at the Division of Vital Records (see address below), and an index is on Family History Library films. FHL Films 2026352-3.

Statewide registration of vital statistics began in 1912. The Division of Vital Records has the records from 14 June 1912 to the present. The Family History Library does not have copies of these records. You can obtain copies by going to Virginia Certificates (official government site) or (commercial site).

Birth records less than 100 years old and death records less than 50 years old are available to immediate family members only who provide proper identification.

Cause of Death[edit | edit source]

  • Causes of Death - use this resource when trying to interpret a disease or medical condition listed on a death record or certificate

Marriage Records[edit | edit source]

Few marriage records prior to 1730 have survived. Those that exist may be found in various places.

Records before 1853 Beginning in 1660, a couple could receive approval to marry by posting a bond with a civil authority or by announcing banns in church.

A bond was usually posted by a relative of the couple. This individual went to a county court clerk and made a written agreement to forfeit a sum of money (about $150 in the 1800s) as a guarantee that there was no reason to prevent the marriage. Records of marriage bonds sometimes include the parents' consent to the marriage if the bride or groom was a minor. The county clerk then gave the couple a license to be given to the minister who would perform the ceremony.

Marriage banns were announcements or publications of the intended marriage presented at three church meetings. This avoided the need to post a bond or obtain a license. The banns were recorded in the church records and the minister then performed the ceremony.

Beginning in 1660 the colonial government required church officials to record all marriages in church registers. Before 1780 these marriages were seldom reported to the county clerk, but in some cases they are recorded in county court order books. A law passed in 1780 required ministers to report all marriages to the county clerk.

Records since 1853 An 1853 state law required the clerk of the court in the county or independent city to issue marriage licenses and keep marriage records. Couples applying for a license provided the following information for the bride and groom. (Beginning in 1858, a standard form was used.)

  • Full names
  • Ages
  • Places of birth and residence
  • Proposed marriage date and place
  • Whether single or widowed
  • Parents' names
  • Groom's occupation
  • Minister's name

After the certificate was completed, the clerk issued a license. When the marriage was performed, the minister returned the information to the clerk, who recorded it in the county or city marriage records or registers. For many counties the certificates no longer exist, but the county marriage record books generally provide the marriage information and the parents' names.

Ordering Copies of Marriage Records[edit | edit source]

Copies of Virginia marriage records are available at several places. Contact the clerk of the court of the county or independent city for copies of the certificates, licenses, and registers kept by the county. For more recent records, you may contact

Marriage records less than 50 years old are available to immediate family members only who provide proper identification.

The Library of Virginia for copies of extant county marriage records and indexes from 1853 to 1935, microfilmed marriage bonds, and published marriage records for many counties. Vogt's book (see below) describes the holdings of the Library of Virginia.

The Library of Virginia has compiled a database entitled Marriage Records Collection of various card index files to marriages, formerly available to researchers in their reading room, that were created over the years by different individuals. It indexes selected information found in a variety of collections and sources at the Library. The records vary in completeness.

Freedmen's Bureau Virginia Marriages ca. 1815-1866--Names of thousands of former slaves are included in these records. A free index can be viewed at FamilySearch. Records may include the name of the bride & groom, date of marriage registration, residence, previous marriages, names and ages of children.

The Family History Library has microfilm copies of marriage bonds and marriage registers for most counties to about 1935 (and some to the 1960s). They can be found in the FamilySearch Catalog Locality Search under:


The Family History Library does not have copies of the marriage indexes at the Library of Virginia but has the Marriage Registers, 1853-1935. [3]

Statewide Marriage Indexes[edit | edit source]

Many published marriage records that are available include:

  • Marriage Records: Early to 1850, Southern States. (Novato, Calif.: Brøderbund Software, 1995). (Compact disc #9 part 229). Cannot be circulated to Family History Centers. Indexes tens of thousands of Virginia county marriage records from 1735 to 1850 on microfilms at the Family History Library.
  • Marriage Records (Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina). (Novato, Calif.: Brøderbund Software, 1994). (Compact disc #9 part 4). Does not circulate to Family History Centers. Also called “Hunting for Bears” collection Indexes tens of thousands of original county marriage records from the late 1700s to 1880.
  • Virginia Marriage Records from the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, the William and Mary Quarterly, and Tyler's Quarterly. (Baltimore: Genealogical Publ., 1982). (FHL Collection) This is especially useful for finding marriage information from the 1700s. It is based on various sources for 41 counties.
  • Crozier, William Armstrong. Early Virginia Marriages. Baltimore: Southern Book Co., 1953. Includes Amelia, Augusta, Charles City, Elizabeth City, Fauquier, King George, Lancaster, Lunenburg, Middlesex, Rockbridge, Southampton, Surry, Sussex, Westmoreland, and York counties.
  • McDonald, Cecil D. Virginia Marriages 1700-1799. Multi-volume. Seattle, Wash.: C.D. McDonald, n.d. Digital version at FamilySearch Digital Library. Includes Accomack, Albemarle, Amelia, Amherst, Augusta, Bedford, Botetourt, Brunswick, Buckingham, Campbell, Caroline, Charlotte, Chesterfield, Culpeper, Cumberland, Elizabeth City, Fauquier, Goochland, Halifax, Harrison, Henrico, Henry, Lancaster, Louisa, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, Middlesex, Montgomery, Norfolk, Northampton, Orange, Pittsylvania, Powhatan, Prince Edward, Princess Anne, Richmond, Rockbridge, Rockingham, Southampton, Spotsylvania, Surry, Sussex, Washington, Westmoreland, Wythe, and York counties. Includes (in addition to the counties previously named) Berkeley, Franklin, Isle of Wight, Loudoun, Northumberland, and Shenandoah counties. Vols. 13-17 at FamilySearch Digital Library. Vols. 18-22 at FamilySearch Digital Library.
  • McDonald, Cecil D. Some Virginia Marriages 1800-1825. 2 vols. Seattle, Wash.: C.D. McDonald, 1973. Digital version at FamilySearch Digital Library. Includes Accomack, Amelia, Augusta, Bedford, Botetourt, Brunswick, Campbell, Caroline, Charles City, Charlotte, Chesterfield, Culpeper, Dinwiddie, Fauquier, Fluvanna, Frederick, Goochland, Greensville, Halifax, Hanover, Harrison, Henrico, Henry, King William, Lancaster, Louisa, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, Middlesex, New Kent, Nottoway, Orange, Pittsylvania, Powhatan, Prince Edward, Princess Anne, Richmond (both City and County), Rockbridge, Southampton, Spotsylvania, Surry, Sussex, Washington, and Westmoreland counties.

Another guide to Virginia marriage records is Marriage Records in the Virginia State Library: A Researcher's Guide.[4]

Additional published marriage records can be found in the FamilySearch Catalog Place Search under:


Cohabitation Records[edit | edit source]

The Cohabitation Records, officially titled, "Register of Colored Persons, Augusta County, State of Virginia, Cohabiting Together as Husband and Wife," are a record of free African American families living in Virginia immediately after the end of the Civil War. The records were created by the Freedmen's Bureau in an effort to document the marriages of formerly enslaved men and women that were legally recognized by an act of the Virginia Assembly in February 1866.[5] For more information about these records see the Cohabitation Records and Virginia Cohabitation Records Wiki pages.

Divorce Records[edit | edit source]

Divorce records are usually kept by the county court. The records for 1853 to the present can be obtained by going to The Family History Library has not obtained copies of divorce records.

Divorce records less than 50 years old are available to immediate family members only who provide proper identification.

Online Records

Additional Helps[edit | edit source]

Tips[edit | edit source]

  • Information listed on vital records is given by an informant. Learn the relationship of the informant to the subject(s) of the record. The closer the relationship of the informant to the subject(s) and whether or not the informant was present at the time of the event can help determine the accuracy of the information found on the record.
  • If you are unable to locate vital records recorded by governments, search for church records of christening, marriage, death or burial. A family Bible may have been used to record births, marriages and deaths.
  • Records for African American may be recorded in separate files with separate indexes.
  • Privacy laws may restrict your access to some vital records. Copies of some vital records recorded in the last 100 years may be unavailable to anyone except a direct relative.
  • Search for Vital Records in the FamilySearch Catalog by using a Place Search and then choosing Vital Records. Search for Virginia to locate records filed by the State and then search the name of the county to locate records kept by the county.

Lost and Missing Records[edit | edit source]

Records do not begin until the following years for these counties:

Amelia, Appomattox 1892, Buchanan 1885, 1977, Buckingham 1869, Caroline, Charles City, Cumberland, Dinwiddie 1864, Elizabeth City, Glouscester 1821, 1865, Greene C.W., Greenville, Hanover 1865, Henrico,Highland 1947, Isle of Wight, James City 1865, King and Queen 1825,1865, King George, King William 1855 1885, Mathews 1865, New Kent 1787, 1865, Northumberland 1710, Rockingham 1864, Russell 1853 and Warwick

Substitute Records[edit | edit source]

  • Virginia Church Records: Depending on the denomination, church records may contain information about birth, marriage and death.
  • Virginia Cemetery Records: Cemetery records are a rich source of birth and death information. These records may also reveal family relationships.
  • Virginia Census: Census records are a valuable source for birth and marriage information. You may also determine approximate time of death when the individual disappear from the census. This is a good place to begin a search.
  • Virginia Newspapers: Besides obituaries, local newspapers may contain birth and marriage announcements and death notices. Also check newspaper social columns for additional information.
  • Obituaries: Obituaries found in newspapers can list the age of the deceased, birth date and place, death date and place, and names of living relatives and their residences.
  • Virginia Periodicals: Local genealogical and historical societies often publish periodicals which may contain abstracted early birth, marriage and death information.
British Mercantile Claims identify deaths of many Virginians (1775 to 1803) who owed debts to British merchants at the opening of the Revolutionary War. Dorman published these records in The Virginia Genealogist, beginning with Volume 6, No. 4 and continuing for numerous volumes. Digital version at American Ancestors by NEHGS ($). FHL Book 975.5 B2vg v. 6 (1962).
  • Virginia Military Records: Military pension records can give birth, marriage and death information. In addition, soldiers' homes records can included this same information.
  • Probate Records: If no death record exists, probate records may be helpful in estimating when an individual has died. Probate records in the 20th Century often contain the exact death date.
  • History: Local histories, family histories and biographies can all be sources of birth, marriage and death information. Often this information is found in county-level records or in surname searches of the FamilySearch Catalog.

More Online Virginia Vital Records Links[edit | edit source]

  • VAGenWeb Project - Free.
  • The Vital Records Search and Information Directory for Virginia - Free and ($).
  • German Roots Links for Virginia Birth & Marriage and Death Records - Free and ($). These links are for all records, not just those belonging to those of German ancestry.

Further Reading[edit | edit source]

  • Clay, Robert Young. Virginia Genealogical Resources. Detroit, Mich.: Detroit Society of Genealogical Research, 1980. FHL Collection Explains Virginia geography and the usefulness and availability of civil, church, and personal record types in Virginia, especially at the Library of Virginia.
  • Eichholz, Alice, ed. Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources. 3rd ed. Provo, Utah: Ancestry, 2004. (FHL Book 973 D27rb 2004) WorldCat entry. Contains bibliographies and background information on history and ethnic groups. Also contains maps and tables showing when each county was created.
  • McGinnis, Carol. Virginia Genealogy: Sources and Resources. Baltimore: Genealogical Publ., 1993. (FHL Book 975.5 A3m).
  • Schweitzer, George K. Virginia Genealogical Research. Knoxville, Tenn.: G. Schweitzer, 1984. (FHL Book 975.5 D27s). Includes geography, bibliographies, repositories, and county-by-county inventories.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. On-going project sponsored by the Virginia Genealogical Society, which currently includes the counties or independent cities of Albemarle, Alleghany, Amherst, Appomattox, Bath, Bedford, Botetourt, Bristol, Buchanan, Charlottesville, Danville, Elizabeth City, Essex, Fairfax, Fauquier, Floyd, Goochland, Halifax, Henry, King George, Loudoun, Louisa, Patrick, Portsmouth, Prince Edward, Prince William, Princess Anne, Southampton, Stafford, Warren, Washington, Wise, Warwick, and Wythe.
  2. Arlene H. Eakle, "Have you searched and searched for a marriage without finding it?" in Genealogy Blog at (accessed 8 January 2011).
  3. On 53 Family History Library films beginning with FHL Film 2056971 item 4.
  4. John Vogt and T. William Kethley, Marriage Records in the Virginia State Library: A Researcher's Guide (Athens, Ga.: Iberian Pub. Co. 1988). FHL Book 975.5 V23v 1988. Describes the available microfilmed and published records and has helpful background information.
  5. Virginia State Law (White, Barnetta McGhee, Ph.D.,) Somebody Knows My Name: Marriages of Freed People in N.C. County by County.(Athens, GA: Iberian Publishing Co., 1995), xxxiv.