Background of Kentucky Vital Records
Statewide death and birth registration was first enacted in the state of Kentucky in 1852. However, there was never 100% compliance with that new rule and the rule only lasted until 1862. Between the years of 1874 to 1879 and 1892 to 1910, there were some recorded deaths and births, but they were not recorded on a consistent basis.
Certain Kentucky cities did maintain their own records of deaths and births that took place before 1911. Four of those cities are: Louisville (1898–1911), Covington (1890–1911), Newport (1890–1911), Lexington (1906–1911)
They each registered births with their local health departments, but the records were incomplete.
Early vital records (from 1852 to 1910) have been recorded at the Kentucky Historical Society, as well as at the Kentucky Department for Libraries. They are organized according to the county where the records were first recorded. Some copies are also on file in Salt Lake City at the Family History Library (FHL) and at other repositories, such as Filson Library. However, there is no complete index of the state of Kentucky’s early vital records available. Nevertheless, a card index for deaths and births occurring between 1852 and 1862 is available at the Kentucky Historical Society. Also, the Kentucky Historical Society’s Register has published some issues containing early Kentucky records, which were indexed according to the county where the records were initially recorded.
On January 1, 1911 statewide registration of death and births was enacted. However, it took until 1920 for most people to comply with it. The records for deaths and births after 1911 have not been placed on microfilm, but their indexes are available on microfilm. Only the Frankfort, Kentucky Office of Vital Statistics has death and birth certificates from 1911 onward available. However, the index on microfilm can be found in a variety of places. Some of those places include:
The Office of Vital Statistics maintains any delayed birth registrations.
In general, marriage records in the state of Kentucky are organized according to county. Those records tend to date back to when a county was formed, or within a few years of that county’s formation. In a few cases, county records of marriages pre-date the year when the county was organized. For example, records going back as far as 1785 are available for the counties of Lincoln, Jefferson, and Fayette. Marriage records are kept by each county’s County Clerk.
Marriages were not required to be recorded on a statewide level in Kentucky until 1958. Each county maintains its own marriage records, but the Office of Vital Statistics has copies of those records on file. It also has an index of marriage records that occurred from 1958 onward. Researchers should note that marriage bonds and licenses may not be filed with the actual marriage certificates.
From 1792 to 1849, the state legislature of Kentucky was responsible for presiding over divorce granting. Then, until 1958, county circuit courts handled most divorce cases. The Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives has some early records from the circuit courts relating to divorces on file. They are a part of the “Acts of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.” The Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives and the Kentucky Historical Society each have those volumes on file, along with some circuit court records on microfilm. The Office of Vital Statistics has divorce records on file from 1958 (the time that statewide recording began) onward.