Arkansas Vital Records
Introduction to Vital Records
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 Arkansas Vital Records State Department of Health or the County Clerk's office of the county where the event occurred. See also Arkansas Statewide Indexes and Collections at the Family History Library.
Arkansas Birth, Marriage & Death Records Online
The following online resources will be useful for locating Vital Records which consist of births, adoptions, marriages, divorces, and deaths. Check Arkansas Vital Records Online for more information about the resources listed below. Nearly all of the searchable databases for Arkansas Vital Records are indexes. After locating a person in an online index always consult the original record to confirm the information in the index.
- Arkansas Links from the fhlfavorites.info for the world - Free
- Arkansas Databases listed on Rootsweb.com - Free
- USGenWeb.org Arkansas Site - Free
- Search for Arkansas Collections on FamilySearch Record Search under Canada, USA, and Mexico - Free
- Carroll County Divorce Records 1870- 1897 - Free
- The Vital Records Search and Information Directory for Arkansas - Free/$
- Wee Monster Links for Arkansas Birth & Marriage and Death Records - Free/$
- Linkpendium Links for Arkansas Genealogy and History, including individual Counties - Free/$
- Progenealogists Links for the United States. Press Ctrl + F on the keyboard to search for Arkansas or AR - Free/$
- Search the Arkansas Birth, Marriage & Death Records at Ancestry.com - $
- Order Arkansas Certificates online - $
1881 - 1914
Statewide birth records in Arkansas did not begin until 1 February 1914. Copies of pre-1914 birth records may be obtained by contacting the county clerk's office of the county of birth. Little Rock and Fort Smith have birth records from 1881 which are available from the state. See also Substitute Records below.
1914 - Present
Arkansas began statewide birth registration 1 February 1914, however, it was the mid 1930's before widespread compliance was achieved. Due to a 100 year privacy law, the Division of Vital Records only issues copies to a family member or the individual named on the record unless the information is going to be used for family history. You must specifically state the purpose for which the certificate will be used. Delayed registrations of births are available since 1914. For copies of state records write to:
Division of Vital Records
Arkansas Department of Health
4815 West Markham Street
Little Rock, AR 72205-3867
The Family History Library Catalog has microfilms of original indexes and birth records for most Arkansas Counties. After selecting the appropriate County, click on the Vital Records topic to see available microfilms that may be ordered and viewed at a nearby Family History Center.
|Types of Information||1881 - 1914||1914 - present|
|Name of Child|
|Date and Place of Birth|
|Parents' Names & Ages|
|Midwife or Doctor|
| Occupation of Father
|Number of Birth for Mother||
|Residence of Family||
Adoption files include the original birth certificate with identifying information to parties of the adoption. These files may be accessed through an Adoption Registry with the State of Arkansas. The State Department of Human Services has an adoption registry. It is a mutual consent registry in which both parties must be registered before identifying information can be released. Adopted adults age 21 or older, birth parents, and individuals related within the second degree may register. Before release of information, parties requesting information are required to have 1 hour of counseling.
Early - 1917
Earlier records must be obtained from the respective county clerk where the license was issued, which is frequently the county of the bride's residence. Be aware that some counties in Arkansas have two courthouses where the documents could have been filed. The Arkansas Department of Health has indexes to marriages from 1820 to the present.
The Arkansas Department of Health has marriage records beginning 1917 and indexes to marriages from 1820 to the present. The Family History Library Catalog has microfilms of original indexes and birth records for most Arkansas Counties. After selecting the appropriate county, click on the Vital Records topic to see available microfilms that may be ordered and viewed at a nearby Family History Center.
|Types of Information||Early - 1917||1917 - present|
|Name of Bride/Groom|
|Date of Marriage|
|Location of Marriage|
|Age of Bride/Groom|
|Date of Birth of Bride/Groom|
|Place of Birth of Bride/Groom|
|Residence of Bride/Groom|
|Occupation of Bride/Groom|
|Number of Marriages for Bride/Groom|
Certified copies of divorce records are available from the clerk of the circuit or chancery court in the county where the divorce was granted. In addition, the Division of Vital Records has divorce records filed since 1923.
Early - 1914
No deaths were recorded by government agencies prior to 1914. See Substitute Records below. Additional information on the history and availability of Arkansas vital records may be found in the Guide to Vital Statistic Records in Arkansas. 
1914 - present
Beginning 1 February 1914, Arkansas State Law required the registration of all deaths occuring within the state of Arkansas. Information found on a death certificate is reported by an informant (usually a relative) and may or may not be accurate. To obtain copies of original death records, contact the Arkansas Department of Health. The Arkansas History Commission has an index of deaths occurring in Arkansas from 1914 through 1949. This is only an alphabetical listing of deaths for the time period; the History Commission does not have copies of the death records.
|Types of Information||early - 1914||1914 - present|
|Name of Deceased|
|Date and Place of Death|
|Age at Death|
|Date and Place of Birth|
|Name of Spouse|
|Name of Informant||
|Occupation and Education of Deceased||
|Whether Deceased was a Veteran||
|Deceased's Social Security Number||
|Cause of Death||
|Date and Place of Burial||
African American Research
When searching for birth, marriage, or death records for African Americans after the Civil War, check the record types listed above. Birth, marriage, and death information for African Americans prior to the Civil War can be found in other African American resources.
Arkansas Indian Research
To locate birth, marriage, or death information on Native Americans living in Arkansas you must know which tribe the individual belonged to. Indians of Arkansas has more specific information about tribes in the State.
Where better records do not exist, use substitute records to verify and enrich knowledge about an event or establish evidence of the birth, marriage or death of your ancestor.
- Arkansas Church Records
- Arkansas Cemetery Records
- Arkansas Census Records
- Arkansas History
- Arkansas Newspapers
- Arkansas Military Records
- Arkansas Peiodicals
Lost or Missing Records
Arkansas Burned Courthouses -
The destruction of courthouses greatly affects genealogists in many ways. Not only are these historic structures destroyed, so are the records they housed: marriage, wills, probate, land records, and others. Once destroyed they are lost forever. Even if they have been microfilmed or the images have been put on computers, they can still be destroyed by natural disasters. However, not all records were lost.
Below is a list of Arkansas Counties and the years the Courthouses were subjected to a disaster. This does NOT mean that ALL records were lost. Often, folks took their documents in for re-recording after a disaster.
- Ashley County - A courthouse fire in 1921 destroyed most of the county's records.
- Benton County - S.J. Bloucher in 1906 makes no mention of record loss; however, Arkansas History Commission sources say an "1865 courthouse fire destroyed many early records." D.Y. Thomas mentions a log courthouse built in 1837, a brick structure in 1840, and another brick courthouse built in 1873, but does not mention a fire.
- Carroll County - A fire in December 1869, destroyed all the county records. Arkansas History Commission information says there was a courthouse fire in 1870.
- Clay County - It is reported "the will and deed records begin in April 1881, and are complete to date except deed record Book E from March 1, 1891, to January 31, 1892. This record was burned. The following records are missing: Book E named above, the entire records of Clayton County, and the records of Clay County from December 1875, to February 29 [sic], 1893. The latter records were burned at Piggott when the courthouse was destroyed by fire.
- Cleveland County - It is reported, "the records are incomplete and some are not in good condition. Several tax books, one marriage record, and one or more court records are missing."
- Conway County - Lewisburg, situated on the Arkansas River, was subject to periodic floods - some records were lost; a fire about 1899 destroyed and damaged some records; loose probate packets date from 1899.
- Craighead County - It was reported, "All records were destroyed by a fire in 1869 and again in 1878. The records are therefore incomplete. Since 1886, the records have been kept in a fire-proof vault and no records have been injured or lost since March 28, 1878."
- Crawford County - It was reported, "The records from 1818 to 1820 are on file at Little Rock. On March 23, 1877, the courthouse was destroyed by fire and all records were destroyed except those of the treasurer and a few deeds and mortgages. Since that date, however, the records are complete and are kept in fire-proof vaults."
- Crittenden County - It was reported, "The records of this county are intact except that during the reconstruction period, a few pages of the deed records and of the chancery court records were mutilated, and the taxbooks for the year 1878 are missing. There are deed records much older than the county and the original deed records, A and B, are now hardly legible. Many of these early deeds are in Spanish. The records are in a good state of preservation with the exceptions named above."
- Desha County - Information from the Arkansas History Commission indicates record loss from a courthouse fire in the 1860s.
- Faulkner County - It was reported, "The records complete despite a courthouse fire; the records were stored in a fire-proof vault. Note: I, Desmond Walls Allen, personally climbed into the courthouse Dumpster in the mid-1980s and fished out many of the loose probate packets that had been dumped in with the Kentucky Fried Chicken boxes, etc., from the sheriff's department's lunch. Three of us dried the records in my momma's microwave oven, arranged them in folders, took them to be microfilmed at the Arkansas History Commission, then placed the records in the University of Central Arkansas' Archives in Torreyson Library in Conway. Some of the records are now stored in what used to be the old jail."
- Franklin County - It was reported, "The records of the county, common pleas, probate, and circuit courts are complete from the date of the first court in 1839. The deed and mortgage records are incomplete; the courthouse was burned in 1863, but G.H. Ross, the clerk, saved from the fire all except the deed records. Since that date the deed records are complete. The records of the Charleston district are complete from 1891, they having been burned in that year. For the most part however, they have been rewritten."
- Fulton County - Material from the Arkansas History Commission indicates a fire in 1870 destroyed most county records.
- Garland County - In 1906, C.D. Greaves reported the records "were complete until Feb. 25, 1905, when fire and heat charred, damaged, or destroyed everything except tax books of 1904 then in the hands of the collector. The deed and mortgage records, except two, have been recopied or reproduced as they were left after the fire, edges being badly burned and only portions legible. As records will have considerable value, these consist of books designated by alphabet (26) and about 39 by number, 1 to 39. Circuit court records were totally destroyed, 10 books; chancery records practically destroyed, book I has been recopied, 8 (A to H) being burned. Probate records all except last one destroyed; so also the county court records, the marriage license records were partially destroyed, one will record burned, one partially restored, mechanic's lien judgement record destroyed, probate docket partially restored, pending cases in chancery court partially saved, all law and probate papers destroyed. The county never had vaults. New courthouse just completed... has complete set of vaults." Garland County apparently had another serious fire in 1913.
- Grant County - It was reported, "All the records destroyed through Mar. 13, 1877, but complete thereafter and kept in fire-proof vaults.
- Greene County - A courthouse fire in 1876 destroyed most records.
- Hempstead County - It was reported, "The circuit court records complete from March 15, 1824; deed records complete since Oct. 9, 1820; records prior lost through "carelessness of officials"; first record of county court dated 1837."
- Izard County - It was reported, "The loss of all records before April 11, 1869; information from the Arkansas History Commission indicates another fire in 1889 destroyed all county records."
- Little River County - It was reported, "The following records missing: county court records from 1867 to Jan. 1876, destroyed by fire in 1882; marriage record from 1867 to Dec. 1880, cause of destruction unknown; real estate tax books from 1867 to 1882, destroyed by fire in 1882. At that time records were kept in "a temporary courthouse, an unsafe frame building."
- Logan County - It was reported, "All records from county formation to 1878 destroyed by fire."
- Madison County - It was reported, "The probate records complete from 1860; county court records complete from 1873; will records complete from 1880; deed records complete from 1843. A fire in 1902 destroyed deed record A and all will records except those recorded on court records."
- Marion County - Arkansas History Commission sources say a courthouse fire in 1888 destroyed many of the records.
- Old Miller County - There was a courthouse fire in 1828. Available records for Old Miller County are in the George T. Wright Collection, Miller County Records, Territory of Arkansas, July 20, 1835 - March 17, 1838, University of Texas, Austin. Probate records have been published - see Old Miller County under books for sale www.ArkansasResearch.com
- Mississippi County - Arkansas History Commission information shows record loss from a courthouse fire in 1865.
- Newton County - It was reported, "All records destroyed by a fire in 1866 but complete from that time."
- Ouachita County - It was reported, "All records destroyed by a fire, Dec. 19, 1875; but complete since that time."
- Perry County - It was reported, "One small chancery volume saved in the 1881 fire and the records complete from that time."
- Phillips County - It was reported, "Most of the records intact though some were 'slightly damaged by being moth-eaten'; records were removed during the War but returned in good condition; entries kept in "Irregular D" volume while records were gone."
- Pike County - Arkansas History Commission sources report destruction of most records in an 1895 courthouse fire; an abstract book was saved.
- Poinsett County - It was reported, "Loss of all records in a courthouse fire Sept. 1873, but complete since that time."
- Polk County - It was reported, "All records prior to 1883 destroyed in a courthouse fire except one probate record dating from Sept. 1876, one county court record dating from July 1876, and one circuit court record dating from Feb. 1877. "
- Prairie County - It was reported, "The records destroyed by an Sept. 16, 1854 fire at Brownsville but complete from 1855 and kept in fire-proof vaults."
- St. Francis County - It was reported, "A fire in the latter part of 1874 destroyed many of the county records, but many of the deed records were only partially burned. They have since been recopied as far as possible. All the records were destroyed by fire during the War. They are therefore complete since 1874, and almost complete since 1865."
- Scott County - Arkansas History Commission sources show a courthouse fire in 1882 destroyed all records.
- Searcy County - It was reported, "Destruction of the records in Jan. 1864, partial destruction in March 1877, and destruction again in Aug. 1885. "All records prior to 1881 are missing except deed record A, one chancery court record, one probate court record, one circuit court record."
- Sebastian County - It was reported, "The courthouse at Greenwood burned in 1881 and again in 1882, but few records were saved. All records since 1882 are in good condition and those prior to that date have been recopied as far as possible."
- Sharp County - It was reported, "A fire of Jan. 20, 1880, destroyed all the county records, but they are complete from that time, housed in fire-proof vaults at Evening Shade and Hardy. The newspaper editor of the Sharp County Record published marriages prior to the fire. See the books by this publisher."
- Van Buren County - It was reported, "Nearly all county records were destroyed by fire in 1863. A few of the old books were hidden by the clerk in a cliff and were thus saved. Records are complete since 1863 and are in a fair state of preservation."
- Washington County - It was reported, "County court records are complete from Aug. 3, 1835; probate records from Oct. 9, 1837; marriage records from 1845, except the record of the period between 1861 and 1864. Probate and will records, A and B, were stolen. During the War, Presley R. Smith, clerk, hid the county records in a dry case in the mountains south of Fayetteville to prevent their falling into the hands of the Federals. Only one record was thus lost. The records are in good condition and are kept in fire-proof vaults."
- Yell County - It was reported, "Records complete since 1865. In addition for the period prior to 1865, the county has the probate records from May 7, 1858, to Feb. 10, 1862; the marriage records from July 23, 1841, to Mar. 24, 1849; and the deed records from Mar. 2, 1841, to Dec. 4, 1848. The missing records were destroyed by fire during the War."
Tips Source: http://myarkansasgenealogy.com/index.htm#facts2 Arkansas
They were established by the state, provincial, or territorial government, however these Arkansas Counties no longer exist. Most of these counties were created and disbanded in the 19th century.
- Dorsey County: Renamed Cleveland County in 1885
- Lovely County: Formed on October 13, 1827, from Crawford County and the Lovely Purchase. Lovely County included more of present day Oklahoma than present day Arkansas. The Oklahoma portion of the County was lost to Arkansas in 1828 with the Cherokee Treaty of that year. Most of the remainder became Washington County on October 27, 1828. Parts of Lovely County were used to form Washington County. Other county boundry changes occured when according to D.Y. Thomas, "In 1816, William and Peter Lovely purchased a tract of land from the Osage Indians, which was included within the western boundary of Arkansas, as laid down in 1824, and was a large part of the county of Lovely, created in 1827. Unfortunately, this same region had been granted to the Cherokee Indians in 1818, creating difficulties which were not settled until 1828, when the present boundary of the State was established, and most of Lovely County made a part of the Indian Territory. Such land as was left by this decision was included in Washington County, October 27, 1828, and the county officials were directed to take over the affairs and moneys of Lovely County."
- Old Miller County: Formed on 1 April 1820 from Hempstead County. In 1828 a boundry change left Old Miller County entirely in Texas. In 1838, it was abolished to create Red River County, Texas. Extant records that are at Arkansas History Commision include Probate (1830-1838), Circuit Court (1830-1835), and Tax records (1832-1837). There was a courthouse fire in 1828. Available records for Old Miller County are in the George T. Wright Collection, Miller County Records, Territory of Arkansas, July 20, 1835 - March 17, 1838, University of Texas, Austin. Probate records have been published - see Old Miller County under books for sale www.ArkansasResearch.com
- New Madrid County: Now located in Missouri
- Sarber County: Formed on 22 March 1871 as Sarber County. Name changed to Logan in 14 December 1875
- 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 family births,marriages and deaths.
- Records for African Americans are often recorded in separate files with separate indexes.
- Privacy laws may restrict your access to some vital records. Copies of vital records recorded in the last 100 years may be unavailable to anyone except direct descendants and/or ancestors.
- If the survival of a baby was in question, the birth may not have been recorded.
- Search for Vital Records in the Family History Library Catalog by using a Place Search and then choosing Vital Records. Search for Arkansas to locate records filed by the state then search the name of the county to locate records kept by that county.
Archives, Libraries & Societies
Statewide archives, libraries, historical and genealogical societies of Arkansas have collections that can be of great value in Arkansas research. Individual counties usually have historical and genealogical societies as well. Contact the Arkansas Archives, Societies and Libraries for specific information on availability of records and how to access their collections online, in person or through a local agent that will search the records for a fee.
- Little Rock: Arkansas Historical Survey, 1942. (Volume 2 Family History Library book 976.7 K2h; films 873998 Item 2 and 1697373 Item 5
My Arkansas Genealogy. Genealogy, Inc, 2008. Web. 1 Sept. 2009. <http://myarkansasgenealogy.com/index.htm#facts2 Arkansas>.
Adoption.com. Adoption Media, LLC, 1995 - 2009. Web. 1 Sept. 2009. <http://laws.adoption.com/statutes/arkansas-laws.html>.