Background of Texas Vital Records
From 1873 to 1876, county district courts recorded some birth records. County clerks were required to record deaths and births beginning in 1903, but the law wasn’t fully complied with right away. Some births were recorded by justices of the peace. Also, many large cities had their own vital records offices to record vital statistics.
The Texas Department of Vital Records has copies of birth and death records that occurred after mandatory recording began, which was in 1903. The Texas State Library has also created statewide vital record indexes on microfilm. Many genealogical libraries across the state have copies of those records on file. Births from 1903 to 1976 are included in that index. They are arranged in alphabetical order and according to year. The death index is also arranged in alphabetical order, but in sections of time spanning multiple years. Those sections are:
- 1903 to 1940
- 1940 to 1945
- 1946 to 1955
Records from 1956 to 1973 are alphabetized according to each individual year. The Texas State Library can search records for a specific name. However, the researcher will have to pay a fee, and may have to request records in writing. County or municipal offices may hold records that cannot be found within state files. Researchers can also make use of online indexes of Texas death records at www.ancestry.com, which cover the years of 1964 through 1998.
In some cases, the county court may have received records of delayed birth registrations. Those records were eventually passed on to the State Bureau of Vital Statistics. Indexes for delayed birth records have since been created on microfilm. They include some records for those who wanted to register for Social Security in Texas, but were actually born elsewhere. In 1959, delayed birth registrations with the State Bureau of Vital Statistics were stopped.
Marriage records were not always recorded prior to 1836. However, the Roman Catholic Church may hold some earlier records. Each church generally has marriage records dating back to when the church was organized. Those records were then given to the county clerk in the appropriate county. Marriages were not required to be recorded at the state level in Texas until 1966. Certified copies of records from 1966 onward can not be obtained at the state office. Researchers should note that African American marriage records may be separate.
Many Texas marriage records have been compiled by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). The Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City, Utah and the DAR Library in Washington D.C. each have copies of those records available on microfilm. County Pages can indicate which vital records can be found in county and municipal offices.
The Bureau of Vital Statistics has recorded divorce records ever since January of 1968. However, they do not offer certified copies of those records. Each clerk of the district court holds divorce records for that district. It took special acts of Congress to grant divorces when Texas was a republic. However, district courts generally granted divorces beginning in 1841. There were certain exceptions, but only until the area gained its statehood, at which point district courts obtained full jurisdiction over divorce cases.