Kentucky Vital Records

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Vital Records Reference Dates[edit | edit source]

Kentucky's civil records start the following years:

Birth Marriage Death
Earliest 1852 1785 1852
Statewide Registration 1911 1958 1911
General Compliance 1920 From county inception date  1920

Introduction to Vital Records[edit | edit source]

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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. A copy or an extract of most original records can be purchased from the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services - Department of Public Health or the County Clerk's office of the county where the event occurred. See also Kentucky Statewide Indexes and Collections at the Family History Library.

Kentucky Birth, Marriage and Death Records Online[edit | edit source]

The following is a list of online resources useful for locating Kentucky Vital Records which consist of births, adoptions, marriages, divorces, and deaths. Most online resources for Kentucky Vital Records are indexes. After locating a person in an index always consult the original record to confirm the information in the index.

A wiki article describing an online collection is found at:

Kentucky Births and Christenings - FamilySearch Historical Records

Birth and Death Records[edit | edit source]

Birth and Death Records Prior to 1852

No births or deaths were recorded by civil authorities before 1852. You may find some information on pre-1852 births and deaths in genealogies, histories, church and Bible records, and collections of personal papers.

There are many collections, books, etc. that have been created to fill this gap in the civil records. One such book is "Kentucky Obituaries 1787-1854" [1]

Birth, Marriage, and Death Records, 1852–1910

Kentucky law required counties to record births, marriages, and deaths as early as 1852. Unfortunately, this law was repealed in 1862. Registration was again attempted from 1874 to 1879 and sporadically from 1892 to 1910. Although compliance with the early registration laws was inconsistent, the records which do exist are a good resource for genealogists.

The Department for Libraries and Archives has the records for 1852 to 1910. The Family History Library, Kentucky Historical Society, Filson Club, and other Kentucky repositories have copies of many of these records. Some of these have been extracted, and the names appear on the FamilySearch™ International Genealogical Index. Records at the Family History Library include:

  • 1852–1914 Kentucky Vital Records: 1852–1914. [2]The records are arranged alphabetically by county.
  • 1874–1910 Kentucky Vital Records. [3]This includes Kentucky Births 1874-1878, 1907–1910; Marriages 1874–1878, 1906–1914; Deaths 1874–1876, 1905–1910.
  • 1852–1878 The Kentucky Historical Society has an incomplete index to the 1852-1878 records. This index is printed in The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society FHL Book 976.9 B2k in volumes 38-41 and 43-63. To find a descripton of the time periods and records covered by this index consult PERSI.

Birth and Death Records, 1911–Present

Beginning 1 January 1911, Kentucky again required the registration of births and deaths. Registration was generally complied with by 1917. The Family History Library has birth and death indexes and death records covering this period:

Application forms and instructions for birth, death, and marriage certificates can be acquired from the Office of Vital Statistics.

Kentucky death certificates are also on microfilm at the Kentucky Department of Libraries and Archives, beginning with 1911. Another resource for researching Kentucky birth and death indexes from 1911 to 1988 can be found at the Kentucky Room of the Lexington Central Public Library, the Louisville Free Public Library, the Kenton County Public Library, and many other libraries across Kentucky. See Kentucky Archives and Libraries for their addresses. The Kentucky Room contains 130 bound volumes of birth and death indexes for 1911 to 1969 which were created by the Office of Vital Statistics. Microfiche is available for 1911 to 1988 (only to 1986 for deaths). The births are indexed by name of the child and name of the mother.

Additonal copies of Kentucky vital records indexes:

Birth and Death Records Kept by Cities before 1911

Before 1911, several major cities kept separate records of births and deaths. The most complete collection of pre-1911 city births is at the Office of Vital Statistics. It has records for the following cities. Records for Louisville FHL Film 209687 (first of 23) and Newport FHL Film 1844128 are also at the Family History Library.

Kentucky Cities with Early Birth and Death Records

City Birth Death
Louisville 1898-1911 1866-1911
Lexington 1906-1911 1898-1911
Covington 1896-1911 1880-1911
Newport 1890-1911 1884-1911
Bellvue 1896 1899

The Department of Archives and Libraries and the Kentucky Historical Society have copies of some of these city records. The Lexington Public Library also has copies of the Lexington records. The Filson Club and the Family History Library have copies of the Louisville and Newport records.

Marriage Records[edit | edit source]

County marriage records are the earliest and most complete vital records for Kentucky. The records that have survived usually begin within a few years of each county’s organization. Lincoln, Fayette, and Jefferson Counties have marriage records dating from the 1780s. Marriages prior to 1798 were under Virginia law.

Marriage records from the earliest dates to the present are kept by the county clerk for each county. Since 1958, duplicates have been sent to the Office of Vital Statistics.

The most complete collection of early marriage record is in the Department of Libraries and Archives. Major archives such as the University of Kentucky Library have microfilm copies of marriage records for many Kentucky counties. The Family History Library has microfilm copies of most of the existing county marriage records from the beginning dates to about 1925. Many of these have been extracted and appear on the International Genealogical Index (IGI). The IGI records are available at:

Many published marriage records which are available include:

  • Kentucky Records: Early Wills and Marriages Copied from Court House Records by Regents, Historians and the State Historian, Old Bible Records and Tombstone Inscriptions, Records from Barren, Bath, Bourbon, Clark, Daviess, Fayette, Harrison, Jessamine, Lincoln, Madison, Mason, Montgomery, Nelson, Nicholas, Ohio, Scott, and Shelby Counties. 1926, 1932. [9]An index is included with this record.
  • Marriage Records. [10] This does not circulate to Family History Centers. It contains marriage records for many Kentucky counties from the late 1700s to the early 1900s as well as marriage records from Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Tennessee. Dates vary with the county. It is also indexed in FamilyFinder Index and Viewer (see Kentucky Census).

Beginning in 1958, Kentucky again required statewide registration of marriages. These records have been indexed and are found at the Office of Vital Statistics. The Family History Library does not have copies of these records. They do, however, have an statewide index to marriages covering 1973 to 1995 in Kentucky.

  • 1973–1995 Marriage Indexes, 1973–1995. [11]This record has separate bride and groom indexes.

Wiki articles describing online collecitons are found at:

Gretna Greens. Many eloping couples went to Maysville, Mason County and Pike County, Kentucky to be married avoiding the waiting period between the time of issuing a license and the performance of the marriage. Others may have crossed the Ohio River and gone to places like Aberdeen or Cincinnati in Ohio, or even to Evansville, Indiana.[12][13]

Death Records[edit | edit source]

Kentucky death certificate amanda pitt.jpg

Because much of the information about the availability of death records in Kentucky is similar to birth records, see the discussion about these records under the heading Births and Deaths.

  • 1787-1854 Kentucky Obituaries, 1787-1854 at (Free[14]/$)
  • 1843–1970 Kentucky Deaths and Burials, 1843-1970is an index to many of these records. Not all records are complete for early years.
  • 1852-1953 - Kentucky, Death Records, 1852-1953 at ($)
  • 1852–1859, 1874–1878 - The Kentucky Historical Society has an incomplete index to the 1852 to 1859 and 1874 to 1878 death records. An index to these recordes is found in the FHL film 169079 (first of 28 films) Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, volumes 39-41 and 43-63. To see an index to the titles in these volumes consult PERSI.
  • 1852-1910 - Kentucky Death Records, 1852-1953. ($) Includes index and images.
  • 1850, 1860, 1870 - For an index to deaths occurring during the 1850, 1860, and 1870 census years, see: Index, Kentucky Mortality Records, for the Year ending June, 1850, 1860, 1870. [15]These records are arranged by year and list the name of the deceased and the page number in the original records.
  • 1911–1947 - Kentucky Death Certificates, 1911–1947. [16]The death certificates are arranged by year, by month, and then alphabetically by county. The certificate numbers are continuous for each year.
  • 1911-1965 - Kentucky Death Records, 1911-1965 at FamilySearch — index
  • 1911-1995 - Kentucky Death Index, 1911–1995. [17]The index contains the deceased’s name, death date and place, age, and place of residence as well as the volume and certificate number.
  • 1911-2000 - Kentucky Death Index, 1911-2000 at ($)

Wiki articles describing online collections are found at:

Divorce Records[edit | edit source]

In most cases, divorces from 1792 to 1849 were only granted by the Kentucky state legislature.  For short time in January 1809, circuit courts had the power to grant divorces.  A published list of divorces from 1792 to 1849 can be found in the periodical Blue Grass Roots (FHL 976.9 B2b) beginning with the Spring 1980 issue.  These articles are indexed in the Periodical Source Index.  They are not indexed by surname, only by the title of the article. Some divorce records may be found in the Acts of Kentucky prior to 1850.

In 1849, authority was given to county circuit courts to grant divorces.  These records can be requested from the Clerk of the County Court.  Some Circuit Clerk offices may have records as early as 1802. The Family History Library has divorce records from some Kentucky counties. These records may be found under court records or vital records of the individual county.   Since 1958 divorce records have been filed in Frankfort on a state-wide basis. Send for these records to the Office of Vital Statistics. By 1972, the word divorce was replaced with the term "dissolution of marriage".

Adoption Records[edit | edit source]

Adoption records are court records. In Kentucky, the following information is available:

Non-identifying information may be provided to:
The adoptee who is age 18 or older
The adoptive parents

Identifying information is accessible to: The adoptee who is age 18 or older
A birth sibling who is age 18 or older
A birth parent

The original birth certificate is available only by court order.

If the birth parents have given consent, the adult adoptee may inspect the records pertaining to his or her adoption proceedings upon written request. If the birth parents have not given consent, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services may notify the birth parents that the adult adopted has made a request for information. The notification shall be by personal and confidential contact, without disclosing the identity of the adult adoptee.

If, after a diligent effort, the secretary of the cabinet certifies that both birth parents identified in the original birth certificate are deceased or is unable to locate the parents, then a judge may order that all adoption records shall be open for inspection to the adult adoptee. In any case, the court shall order that only identifying information about the birth parents be shared with the adult adoptee.

In situations where a preadoptive brother or sister relationship existed, and one or more of these siblings was then adopted, the following procedures shall be followed on an inquiry by one or more of the siblings to the cabinet seeking information about his brother or sister:

In all cases, an adoptee age 18 or older or a preadoptive sibling age 18 or older may file information with the cabinet about himself or herself, his or her present location, and his or her known antecedents, stating his or her interest in being reunited with his or her preadoptive siblings and authorizing the cabinet to release such information to any preadoptive siblings who may make similar inquiry.
In any case in which a person age 18 or older requests information about or expresses a desire in being reunited with a preadoptive sibling, the cabinet shall first determine whether the sibling has made similar inquiry. If the sibling has previously authorized release of information, the cabinet shall release the information to the sibling making inquiry. (Kentucky State Statute 199.572; 199.575)

The state agency to contact concerning adoption issues is;

Department for Community Based Services, Kentucky Cabinet for Families and Children

Toll Free: (800) 928-4303

or (502) 564-2147

Department for Community Based Services are administered through a network of nine service regions and offices in each of Kentucky's 120 counties under the office of Protection and Permanency. Locate the correct service region office.

Additional Helps[edit | edit source]

Tips[edit | edit source]

  • 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.
  • 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 FamilySearch Catalog by using a Place Search and then choosing Vital Records.  Search for Kentucky to locate records filed by the State and then search the name of the county to locate records kept by the county.

Research Guides[edit | edit source]

You can learn more about Kentucky vital records in:

  • A Guide to Kentucky Birth, Marriage and Death Records, 1852–1910 [18]This book shows the birth, marriage, and death records available for each county and the years they were recorded.

See United States Vital Records for more detailed information on the value and content of vital records. For divorce records, see the "Divorce Records" section.

To find vital records, consult the Place Search of the FamilySearch Catalog under:


Burned, Lost or Missing Records[edit | edit source]


Kentucky Counties with Burned Courthouses

See the heading "Record Loss" in each individual county.
For further information on researching in burned counties, see the following:

Substitute Records[edit | edit source]

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 FamilySearch Catalog.

More Online Links[edit | edit source]

Wiki articles describing online collections are found at:

Family History Library Vital Records Collections

This is a collection of Family History Library records which are abstracted, indexed and titled the Kentucky 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 available online for free at

References[edit | edit source]

  1. G. Glenn Clift, published by the Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc.
  2. Frankfort, Kentucky: Kentucky Division of Archives and Records, 1975. (FHL film 1533971-1533979
  3. Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1958. (FHL film 174932-43
  4. Kentucky. Office of Vital Statistics. Birth Index, 1911–1995. [Frankfort, Kentucky: Kentucky Office of Vital Statistics], 1997. (FHL fiche 6118873, first of 1038 fiche
  5. Bountiful, Utah: Precision Indexing, 1990. (FHL
  6. Clift, Garrett Glenn. Kentucky Marriages, 1797–1865. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Pub., 1966, 1940. FHL film 1320550 item 11, 1966 edition
  7. Liahona Research (Orem, Utah), 1998. (Family History Library compact disc no.9 part 233 [on 4 discs].)
  8. The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Pub., 1983. (FHL Collection )
  9. Ardery, Julia Hoge Spencer. Kentucky Records: Early Wills and Marriages Copied from Court House Records by Regents, Historians and the State Historian, Old Bible Records and Tombstone Inscriptions, Records from Barren, Bath, Bourbon, Clark, Daviess, Fayette, Harrison, Jessamine, Lincoln, Madison, Mason, Montgomery, Nelson, Nicholas, Ohio, Scott, and Shelby Counties. 1926, 1932. Reprint, Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing, 1969, 1972. ( FHL fiche 6049306
  10. Orem, Utah: Automated Archives, 1994. (Family History Library compact disc no. 9 part 2.)
  11. Office of Vital Statistics. Marriage Indexes, 1973–1995. Frankfort, Kentucky: Kentucky Office of Vital Statistics, 1997. (FHL Collection Set of 173 fiche beginning with 6118875)
  12. Arlene H. Eakle, "Have you searched and searched for a marriage without finding it?" in Genealogy Blog at (accessed 8 January 2011).
  13. Arlene H. Eakle, "Charles H. Browning and Your Genealogy" in Genealogy Blog at (accessed 8 January 2011)
  14. May be used for free at Family History Center. To locate a center near you, click here.
  15. [N.p.], 1949–1950. ({FHL|87427|item|disp=FHL book 976.9 V23di, FHL film 873777 Item 1}}
  16. Kentucky. Office of Vital Statistics. Kentucky Death Certificates, 1911–1947. Frankfort, Kentucky: Kentucky Office of Vital Statistics, 1993–1998. FHL film 1904664 (first of 357 films)
  17. Kentucky. Office of Vital Statistics. Kentucky Death Index, 1911–1995. [Frankfort, Kentucky: Kentucky Office of Vital Statistics], 1997. (FHL Collection
  18. Duff, Jeffrey Michael. A Guide to Kentucky Birth, Marriage and Death Records, 1852–1910. Frankfort, Kentucky: Kentucky Department of Libraries and Archives. Public Records Division, 1988. (FHL Collection Book)