North Carolina Vital Records
Introduction to Vital RecordsVital Records consist of births, adoptions, marriages, divorces, and deaths recorded on registers, certificates, and documents. United States Vital Records has additional research guidance on finding and using vital records. In North Carolina, the county Register of Deeds office houses birth, marriage and death records. The North Carolina State Archives Guide to Research Materials in the North Carolina State Archives: County Records lists which records are available at the State Archives for each county as orignal records or as microfilmed records. A copy or an extract of most original records after 1913 can be purchased from the county register of deeds of the North Carolina Department of Health.
Vital Records Reference Dates
North Carolina's civil records start the following years:
North Carolina Birth, Marriage and Death Records Online
The following is a list of online resources useful for locating North Carolina Vital Records which consist of births, marriages, divorces, and deaths. Many online resources for North Carolina Vital Records are indexes. After locating a person in an index always consult the original record to confirm the information in the index.
- North Carolina Births 1866-1964 -Free Some recent births are stillbirth records only
- North Carolina Births 1913-1980+ at Ancestry.com ($) Dare, Durham, Forsythe and Wake Counties not included.
- North Carolina Marriages 1759-1979 -Free
- North Carolina Marriages 1741-2004 at Ancestry.com-($)
- North Carolina Deaths 1906-1930 -Free
- North Carolina Deaths and Burials 1898-1994 -Free
- North Carolina Birth, Marriage and Death at Ancestry.com- ($)
- Order North Carolina Certificates online -$
- North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services: Vital Records - $
Birth records usually give the name and sex of the child; the names, birthplaces, and ages of the parents (with the mother’s maiden name); the occupation of the father; and the number of children born to the mother. Birth records of adopted children may give the birth parents but have frequently been amended to show only the adoptive parents. A year-by-year search of birth records may reveal other children born to a couple.
Statewide registration of births and deaths began in 1913 and was generally complied with by 1920. In some cities record keeping began earlier. For example, Raleigh began recording births in 1890 and deaths in 1885. Counties where the births and deaths occur keep a duplicate copy of the information they send to the state office.
The county Register of Deeds office maintains vital records and is the first place to search for birth records. Copies requested for genealogical purposes, which are not certified, do not require a notarized signature and the cost is nominal. Certified copies are only available to close family members. Most of the county indexes to births and deaths through the 1960s have been microfilmed and are available at the Family History Library. Search the Family History Library catalog by:
NORTH CAROLINA, [COUNTY]- VITAL RECORDS
In addtion, the North Carolina State Archives holds microfilmed indexes to births for all counties except Wake and Durham counties.
Additional indexes are online at:
Copies of originial birth records from 1913 to the present are available at the Vital Records office:
Dept. of Environment, Health, and Natural Resources
225 North McDowell Street
Raleigh, NC 29537
For Mail requests:
North Carolina Vital Records
1903 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-1903 Include the appropriate fees.
Some NC Registers of Deeds are making their vital records available online.
For up-to-date information about vital records, see:
North Carolina Vital Records Information This site has links to the state vital records office’s Internet site. It also shows their current address, telephone, fax, fees, and years for which records are available. It includes addresses of county vital records offices, and many county genealogical societies and links to related information such as local record searching volunteers.
Do not contact North Carolina Vital Records for births before 1913. Some county registrars have birth records prior to 1913. Contact the respective county Register of Deeds for record availability.
Pre-1913 Birth Records Kept by Cities. The city of Raleigh kept birth records beginning with 1890 and the city of Wilmington from 1904. Raleigh death records begin in 1885 and Wilmington’s begin in 1903.
Delayed Birth Certificates
Due to Social Security requirements and other federal acts, many people needed proof of birth. If no birth record was available, they could go to the county where they were born and file a delayed registration of birth. These may be found in county offices of the Register of Deeds. These records may list births from the 1870s to the 1960s. They usually give the exact date of birth, town or city of birth, and often the full names of both parents, as well as the volume and page. The library has microfilm copies of some of these important documents. Search the Family History Library catalog by:
NORTH CAROLINA, [COUNTY]- VITAL RECORDS or
NORTH CAROLINA, [COUNTY]- VITAL RECORDS- INDEXES
Still Births Vital Records Section. Death Certificates, 1906–1994; Still Births, 1914–1953; Fetal Deaths, 1960–1974; Index, 1906–1967 has the certificates are arranged by file number or volume number. These births are included in an online index titled North Carolina Deaths and Burials 1898-1994.
A book with birth information about children born out of wedlock is North Carolina Bastardy Bonds. At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL Book 975.6 P2c  Records for 30 counties are included in this book. These bonds are from the time the county was created until about 1880. The original records are at the North Carolina State Archives. The bondsman listed may be the father of the child, the mother or her father, or another party. About 22,000 names are listed.
Different types of county marriage records are available in North Carolina in different time periods. In general, the following types of records are available:
- 1669-1741 Limited availability
- 1741-1851 Marriage bonds
- 1851-1868 Marriage bonds, licenses and certificates
- 1868-present Marriage licenses
Marriage Records, Early to 1868
From 1669 to 1742, marriages were performed by clergy or civil authorities and were recorded in county records. Few of these records have survived, except for those of Pasquotank FHL Film 19496and Perquimans FHL Films 370661 370662 counties.
From 1741 to 1868, either a publication of banns or the posting of a bond was required before a marriage could take place. These practices are described below:
Banns. The publication of banns was areligious procedure. For three consecutive Sundays, the couple posted in church their written intention to marry. If no objection was voiced, permission to marry was granted by the church. Before 1851 marriages performed by banns were not recorded in public records, so they must be located in church or Bible records. Beginning in 1851 ministers were required to file marriage returns with a clerk in the county.
Bonds. Couples could also obtain a license to marry if the groom posted a bond of 50 pounds in the county where the bride resided. Marriages performed by bonds were recorded in county records. Some of these pre-1868 bonds have survived for about half the counties. Marriage by bonds was discontinued in 1868.
An Index to Marriage Bonds Filed in the North Carolina State Archives. The index refers you to the county of marriage. It contains a brides index and a grooms index. It includes the entire state, except Granville County. This index is available on Ancestry.com ($). Most of these pre-1868 marriage bonds are also listed in the International Genealogical Index available at the Family History Library and at each Family History Center and online. Additionally, these records are found on North Carolina Marriages, 1759-1979. Many county marriage records are on microfilm or have been published.
For a fee, the North Carolina State Archives will search the index for you and send you a copy. Instructions are found in Archives Information Circular 15 September 1977. Only the microfiche is circulated to Family History Centers.
- Clemens, William M. North and South Carolina Marriage Records: From the Earliest Colonial Days to the Civil War. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1927. Digital version at World Vital Records ($). 1981 reprint: FHL Collection; 1987 reprint: FHL Collection
Marriage Records after 1868
Marriage records from 1868 to 1962 are kept by the register of deeds in each county. In 1868, new laws made the only official marriage record the county marriage license. Statewide registration of marriages began in 1962. You can write to the Division of Health Services (see address above) to obtain copies of records since January 1962. For records from 1868 to 1962, write to the county register of deeds or the North Carolina State Archives listed in the "Archives and Library" section.
County Marriage Records at the Family History Library
The Family History Library has microfilm copies of county marriage records for most counties through the 1950s. From Guilford County, for example, the library has six films of marriage abstracts (1770–1868) and 65 films of marriage licenses (1873–1961). Numerous published sources are also available, such as:
- North and South Carolina Marriage Records: From the Earliest Colonial Days to the Civil War. FHL Book 975 V28c 1981 
- Marriage Records, Early–1850. FHL CD-ROM no. 9 pt. 229 This does not circulate to Family History Centers. This resource indexes Family History Library microfilms of selected marriage records from Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. Almost all North Carolina counties are represented. This index shows each spouse’s name, Soundex code, and marriage date. The state and county and marriage years covered are in the upper left of the screen.
- Marriage Records. Part 4, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina. This does not circulate to Family History Centers. This resource, once titled Hunting for Bears, indexes original marriage records to about 1868 from 102 North Carolina counties. Family History Library microfilm copies were not used to compile this index. This index lists each spouse’s name and marriage date. The state and county of the marriage are displayed on the upper left of the screen.
North Carolina birth, marriage, and death records can be found in the Family History Library Catalog by using a Place Search under:
- NORTH CAROLINA- VITAL RECORDS
- NORTH CAROLINA, [COUNTY]- VITAL RECORDS
- NORTH CAROLINA, [COUNTY], [TOWN]- VITAL RECORDS
Many eloping couples went to Mt.Airy, Surry County, North Carolina to be married and avoid the waiting period between the time of issuing a license and the performance of the marriage.
Statewide registration of deaths began in 1913. Compliance in most counties was reached by 1917. Death records usually give information about the deceased, such as name, age, birth date, state or country of birth (sometimes the city or town), names of the parents (frequently including the maiden name of the mother), and the informant (who may be a close relative). The date and place of death are given. Sometimes burial information, the cause of death, and the names of the physician and mortician are provided. The length of residence in the state or county may also be given.
The best place to obtain a death certificate is from the county Register of Deeds. Uncertified copies of certificates are available without a notarized signature and for a nominal fee. Death indexes give the name of the person, the name of the father (or mother), and the place and date of death and need to be used if the county of death and date of death is not known. Refer to the following indexes:
- Death indexes and images from 1906-1930 North Carolina Deaths 1906-1930
- Information abstracted from death records North Carolina Deaths and Burials 1898-1994
- North Carolina Death Collection 1908-2004 aviailable at Ancestry.com ($)
- Death indexes for 1906–1967 and death certificates for 1906–1994 are on microfilm at the Family History Library. FHL Films 1909181 (first of 1,022
Original death records 1913–1975 for most counties and indexes for 1913–1979 are available from the North Carolina State Archives. It is less expensive to request a death certificate from the county Register of Deeds. You may order death records from the North Carolina State Archives. Contact them for specific information about ordering records from the Archives. A few delayed death records exist as early as 1909.
Death records 1930 to present are located at North Carolina Vital Records. Request an uncertified copy unless you are requesting own vital record or that of the your spouse, sibling, direct ancestor, direct descendant, stepparent, or stepchild. An uncertified copy gives the same information as a certified copy, but it cannot be used for legal purposes.
Any death records prior to 1913 are located at the county Register of Deeds.
Divorce records may provide information about the date and place of marriage, names and ages of children, the cause of the divorce, and terms of settlement. After the American Revolution and through 1827, divorces could be granted by the general assembly, and these records are among the legislative papers at the state archives. The superior court for each county also had jurisdiction over divorce cases beginning in 1814. The Family History Library has very few of these documents. You can write to the superior court clerk at the county courthouse for copies or information. North Carolina Vital Records has divorce records from 1 January 1958 to the present. For records prior to 1958, contact the county clerk of court where the divorce was filed.
Divorce records can be found in the Family History Library Catalog by using a Place Search under:
- NORTH CAROLINA, [COUNTY] - DIVORCE RECORDS
- NORTH CAROLINA, [COUNTY] - COURT RECORDS
- Divorce Index 1958-2004 Ancestry.com - $
As of January 1, 2008, adult adoptees, biological parents, adoptive parents of children under 18, and lineal descendents of deceased adoptees are allowed to seek health information through agencies called Confidential Intermediaries. Additionally, If all parties are consenting, adult adoptees, biological parents and lineal descendents may meet or share identifying information through the services of a Confidential Intermediary.
Adoption records in North Carolina are sealed, by statute, at the time the adoption is finalized and remain closed to the public. However, Confidential Intermediaries have access to adoption records to allow searches on behalf of adult adoptees age 21 and over, biological parents, adoptive parents of children under the age of 18, or lineal descendents of a deceased adoptee. Confidential Intermediaries may share adoptive information when all parties consent.
Non-identifying information and health history from the adoption record can be shared with an adoptee by the approving agency without Confidential Intermediary service. Non-identifying information that may be released includes the date, time of birth, and weight at the time of birth of the adoptee and the reason the adoptee was placed for adoption. In addition, background information about the birth family, including age, nationality, ethnic background, race, religious preference, educational level, general physical description and any other general information may be provided. The health history of the birth parents and other relatives that might have an affect on the adoptee's mental or physical health, which is gathered at the time of the adoption, may be contained in the case record. If an individual desires updated health/social history, this information can be gathered and shared by a Confidential Intermediary upon consent. Non–identifying information about the present circumstances of an adult adoptee can be shared with the adoptee’s adult biological sibling, the guardian of a minor sibling, or the adoptee’s former parent on request.
If a requester is seeking this information and knows which county Department of Social Services or private child-placing agency placed the adoptee for adoption or supervised their adoption, he/she should contact that particular agency in writing and request their non-identifying health and/or social history information, and/or Confidential Intermediary Services. Requesters that do not know which agency was involved, may contact the North Carolina State Division of Social Services at 325 N. Salisbury Street, 2425 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, North Carolina 27699-2425 in writing, with a photocopy I.D., and request this information. The State Office will identify the approving agency and refer the requester for non-identifying information and Confidential Intermediary services if desired. If the approving adoption agency is not providing Confidential Intermediary Services, this agency should refer the requester to another licensed Confidential Intermediary provider.
An adoptee, birth parent, or biological sibling may file a motion with the Clerk of Superior Court of original jurisdiction (county in which adoption proceeding filed) to have the adoptee’s record opened.
For more information see Foster Child Adoption in North Carolina.
- 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 for 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 Family History Library Catalog by using a Place Search and then choosing Vital Records. Search for North Carolina to loacte records filed by the State and then search the name of the county to locate records kept by the county.
For a list of record loss in North Carolina counties see: North Carolina Counties with Burned Courthouses
For further information on researching in burned counties, see the following:
- Arlene Eakle, When the Records are Gone in Tennessee Genealogy Blog
- Burned Counties Research in FamilySearch Wiki
- Michael John Neill, Burned Counties in Family History Circle
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 Records: 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 Online North Carolina Vital Records Links
- USGenWeb.org North Carolina Site - Free
- USGenWeb Marriage Project - North Carolina - Free
- North Carolina Databases listed on Rootsweb.com - Free
- German Roots Links for North Carolina Birth & Marriage and Death Records - Free/$ This site includes all vital records, not just those of German descent
- Progenealogists Links for the United States. Press Ctrl + F on the keyboard to search for North Carolina or NC - Free/$
- North Carolina Obituary Links
- FHL Favorites for Kentucky
- Cemetery Census -North Carolina -Free - an enormous collection of cemetery listings, including photos & directions for all North Carolina Counties, with a searchable database
- Find-a-Grave - Free - large database of cemetery listings, with records for all States & Counties; key in the County, click Search to find a listing of cemeteries for that county
If you are aware of other online databases, please feel free to add them.
- Orsay, Elizabeth T. North Carolina Vital Records Information. In United States Vital Records Information [database on-line]. N.p., 1999? [cited 4 August 1999].
- North Carolina. Department of Public Health. Vital Records Section. Death Certificates, 1906–1994; Still Births, 1914–1953; Fetal Deaths, 1960–1974; Index, 1906–1967. Salt Lake City: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1993-95. Family History Library films beginning withFHL Collection
- Camin, Betty J. North Carolina Bastardy Bonds. Mt. Airy, North Carolina: B.J. and E.A. Camin, 1990. Seneca, South Carolina: The Kopy Shop Printers. FHL Collection
- North Carolina. Department of Cultural Resources. Archives and Records Section.Archives Information Circular 15 September 1977. FHL Title and FHL Title item 19; FHL Title item 15.
- Clemens, William M. North and South Carolina Marriage Records: From the Earliest Colonial Days to the Civil War. 1927. Reprint, Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing, 1981. FHL Collection Family History Library book
- Marriage Records, Early–1850. Vol.1, Southern States. Orem, Utah: Automated Archives, 1992. FHL CD-ROM no. 9 pt. 229
- Marriage Records. Part 4, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina. Orem, Utah: Automated Archives, 1994.
Wiki articles describing these collections are found at:
- North Carolina Davidson County Vitals (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- North Carolina Death Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- North Carolina Births and Christenings (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- North Carolina Marriages (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- North Carolina Deaths and Burials (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- North Carolina County Marriage Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)