District of Columbia Vital Records
District of Columbia Birth, Marriage and Death 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.
Vital Records Reference Dates
The District of Columbia's civil records start the following years:
District of Columbia Birth, Marriage and Death Records Online
The following is a list of online resources useful for locating District of Columbia Vital Records which consist of births, adoptions, marriages, divorces, and deaths. Most online resources for District of Columbia Vital Records are indexes. After locating a person in an index always consult the original record to confirm the information in the index.
- District of Columbia Births and Christenings, 1830-1955 -Free
- District of Columbia Deaths and Burials, 1840-1964 -Free
- District of Columbia Deaths (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- District of Columbia Marriages, 1830-1921 -Free
- Search the District of Columbia Birth, Marriage & Death Records at Ancestry.com ($)
- Where to write for District of Columbia Vital Records ($)
Birth and Death Records
Registration of vital statistics began in 1874 for the District of Columbia and was generally complied with by 1915 for births and 1880 for deaths. You can obtain copies of these records by writing to:
- Department of Human Services
- Vital Records Division
- 800 9th Street S.W.
- Washington, DC 20024
- Telephone: 202-645-5962
- Internet: Department of Health
Birth records more than 100 years old and death records more than 50 years old are considered public record and no approval is needed for requested records. The current fees for obtaining copies of the District's birth and death records are found at the DC Dept. of Health online.
Some earlier records of deaths exist from 1855-1860, and 1865-1949. They can be obtained from the above address. The Family History Library has copies of some of the District's births, 1874-1897 starting on (FHL Collection Film 2020343). Deaths for 1855-1949 begin on ( FHL Collection Film 1994618).
Registration of marriages began in 1811. Some of the early marriages for the years 1811 to 1858 have been transcribed by the DAR and are on microfilm at the Family History Library(FHL Collection Film 845766). Easier-to-use versions of these records include:
- DC marriage records 1811-1950; indexes, 1811-1986 (FHL Collection Film 2079252).
- Alexandria (DC) marriage certificates returned 1801-1850(FHL Collection Film 1902941 item 3).
- DC marriage registers 1811-1870 (FHL Collection Book 975.3 V28p) Early registers only contain the name of the bride and groom and the date of marriage.
- DC marriage returns, 1874-1902, 1907-1923; consents, 1896-Dec. 1950 (FHL Collection Film 2070925) These records may provide the name of the bride and groom, and their age, residence, color, occupation, birthplace and number of marriages.
- DC newspaper marriage notices 1800-1850 (FHL Collection Film 929472).
You can obtain marriage records from 1811 to the present by writing to:
- Superior Court of the District of Columbia
- Marriage License Bureau
- 500 Indiana Avenue N.W.
- Washington, DC 20001
- Telephone: 202-879-4840
- Internet: District of Columbia Courts
- Marriages more than 50 years old are considered public record and no approval is needed to apply for a record copy.
An index to divorce proceedings prior to September 1956 are available from:
- Clerk of the U.S. District Court
- 3rd and Constitution Avenue N.W.
- Washington, DC 20001
- Telephone: 202-273-0555
- Internet: United States District Court for the District of Columbia
Old divorce records 1803-1863 are housed at the National Archived in Record Group 21 (Entries 16 and 23). Records after 1863 and previous to September 16, 1956 are maintained at the Washington National Records Center, Suitland, Maryland. Reseachers must know the divorce case number found in the index housed at the U.S. District Court as listed above. To access divorce cases, an appointment must be made with the Washington National Records Center at least 24 hours prior to the review appointment. Personal identification is required to enter the Washington National Records Center. Please see Researching and Accessing Court Records at the Washington National Records Center.
Divorce documents filed since September 16, 1956 are at:
- Clerk of the Superior Court
- Family Division
- 500 Indiana Avenue, N.W.
- Washington, DC 20001
- Telephone: 202-879-1418
- Internet: Clerk of the Superior Court
The Family History Library has no District of Columbia divorce records.
There are no provisions for receiving information, whether identifying or non-identifying from adoption files. All adoption records are sealed and cannot be opened without petitioning the court for "good cause." An adopted adult must petition the court in which the adoption was finalized.
- 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.
- Search for Vital Records in the Family History Library Catalog by using a Place Search and then choosing Vital Records. Search for District of Columbia to locate records filed by the State and then search the name of the county to locate records kept by the county.
Hall, H. Byron. Lest We Forget: A Guide to Genealogical Research in the Nation's Capital. Annondale, Virginia: 1992. (FHL Collection Book 975.3 D27b 1992).
Pippenenger, Wesley E. District of Columbia Ancestors: A Guide to Records of the District of Columbia. Westminster, Maryland: 1997. (FHL Collection Book 975.3 D23p).
Death records 1861-1865, the Civil War years, are missing.
These links will take you to wiki pages describing alternate sources for birth, marriage and death records.
- Church Records: Depending on the denomination, church records may contain information about birth, marriage and death.
- Cemetery Records: Cemetery records are a rich source of birth and death information. These records may also reveal family relationships.
- 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.
- Newspapers: Besides obituaries, local newspapers may contain birth and marriage announcements and death notices. Also check newspaper social columns for additional information.
- Periodicals: Local genealogical and historical societies often publish periodicals which may contain abstracted early birth, marriage and death information.
- Military Records: Military pension records can give birth, marriage and death information, In addtion, 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 Family History Library catalog.
More District of Columbia Vital Records Online Links
USGenweb.org site for Washington D.C. or District of Columbia - Free
Progenealogists Links for the United States. Press Ctrl + F on the keyboard to search for District of Columbia or DC - Free/ ($)
Vitalcheck.com ($) Express ordering of vital record certificates
Family History Library District of Columbia Vital Records Collections
This is a collection of Family History Library records which are abstracted, indexed and titled the District of Columbia Vital Records Index. For over 30 years, volunteer indexers extracted this information from microfilm copies of the original records. In 1998, a few of the entries were published on 7 CDs by the Family History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the "North America Vital Records Index." This index is an index of the births, marriages, and deaths throughout Kentucky. The index is not necessarily complete for any particular place or region.
These records are availble online for free at FamilySearch Historical Records Collection.