Background of Alabama Vital Records
A small amount of information and facts regarding births and deaths of a few people prior to 1881 is readily available in a roundabout way from probate court records. These kinds of records include things like guardianship’s, apprenticeships, recorded wills, and the different other records retained in the settlement as well as division of an estate.
The act of 1881 specified that every birth and death would be documented with a county health officer. Afterwards legislation called for that these registrations be generated within the first five days right after the birth or death and called for that the county health officer’s registry books be transferred along with the county probate judge. These kinds of records, if they survive in any way, tend to be found these days in the specific county probate courts. Mandatory state-level registration of births and deaths started Alabama is January 1, 1908 . Pretty much all original birth and death records are now recorded with the Alabama Department of Public Health.
A marriage license continues to be required since the territorial period in 1799. Marriage licenses have been issued by the clerk of the county Orphans’ Courts wherein the bride lived. Following 1850 the orphans’ court was replaced by the probate court, which is still charged with issuing marriage licenses.
Some probate court records do include information on deaths and births that took place in Alabama before 1881. That information could be included in documents like wills, guardianship papers, apprenticeship papers, and related documents. However, those death and birth records are not complete and may be few and far between.
In 1881, an act was past that required the county health officer in each county to be informed of all deaths and births in that county and to record and maintain those records. Later, a requirement was added that all deaths and births be registered in 5 days or less from the time of the death or birth in question. There was also a requirement put in place that the county health officer for each county had to turn those registry books and records over to the county probate judge’s office. That’s why all extant records can now be found in the county probate courts. Although, many records have not survived. Deaths and births were not required to be recorded at the state level until January 1, 1908.
The Alabama Department of Public Health now has all original death and birth records on file. However, they generally take 6 to 8 weeks to respond to requests for information. Alabama Vital Records may be contacted for certified death or birth certificate copies.
The county health department should have records on file for divorces from 1950 onward and marriages from 1936 onward. The Alabama Center for Health Statistics also has copies of those records.
There are many microfilmed indexes that researchers can consult. Some of them are: Death Certificates (1908 to 1959), Birth Certificates (1917 to 1919), Deaths of Convicts (1884 to 1952), Divorce Records (1818 to 1864, 1908 to 1937, 1950 to 1959)
Local Family History Centers and the Salt Lake City Family History Library (FHL) have copies of those records available to researchers.
Marriage records from 1936 to 1992, divorce records from 1818 to 1864 and 1908 to 1992 are also available on microfilm, as are death certificates from 1908 to 1974.
Since 1799, when Alabama was still a territory, marriage licenses have been required. The county orphans’ court clerk issued those early licenses. Researchers should note that the county issuing the license was the county where the bride lived. The probate courts replaced the orphans courts in 1850 and took over their responsibilities.
In order to get married, the woman had to be at least 14 years old and the man had to be at least 17 years old. If the woman was under 18 and the man was under 21, parental consent (or guardian consent) was required. After the marriage license was issues, the couple’s marriage could be officiated by a justice of the peace, county judge, ordained minister, state judge, or territorial judge, depending on the situation and the time period. The official who officiated over the marriage ceremony then had to file the certificate of marriage with the county probate judge in the county where the couple was married.
The officiant, bondsman, bride, and groom were listed on marriage certificates that were issued prior to 1888. The marriage date and the license bond were also listed on the certificate. Records from 1910 and onward may contain additional information, such as physical descriptions of the bride and groom, their ages, their occupations, and the names of their parents. Certificates may also list blood relationship between them, if there was one, as well as the number of times they were each married before, if any.
The county probate judge’s office in the county where the marriage certificate was originally recorded can provide a certified copy of that certificate. However, it may take 6 to 8 weeks for the office to reply to a request and the person making the request will have to pay a fee for the copy.
Up until 1865, the county chancery tried divorce cases. However, all divorce decrees had to be finalized by the state legislature. Therefore, those early divorce decrees are listed in the legislative records. They are contained in the Senate and House Journals publication.
The power to finalize divorce decrees was given to the county chancery court in 1865. Then, in 1917, the chancery court became part of the county circuit court system. Therefore the county circuit court equity records in the county where the divorce was filed should contain that divorce record, if the divorce occurred after 1819.
Some county clerks also maintained separate divorce records, but it was not a legal requirement for them to do so. Researchers may inquire at the county circuit court clerk’s office for copies of divorce certificates. However, there is usually a wait time of 6 to 8 weeks and a fee associated with such requests.