Kentucky Vital Records

BIRTH RECORDS

1911 to present – In 1911, Kentucky began keeping Birth Certificates at the state level and these records can be obtained at Vital Statistics in the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (https://www.chfs.ky.gov).  This is the only location for those records and they are not available on microfilm at this time, .

Between 1852 and 1910 – Two separate attempts were made to keep birth records/registers at the county level.  Unfortunately, not all counties complied and not all records survived.  These records were created within the county and information was obtained based on people reporting it.  In other words, if a child was born several miles from town, the birth might not be reported until the next trip to town which could have been a month or two after the event.  These registers can be accessed via Ancestry, Family Search.org and on microfilm at KDLA and the Kentucky History Center.  NOTE:  Some cities may have additional birth records that were unique to that city.

With the added loss of the 1890 census, records for the period of time between 1880 and 1910 presents additional challenges in locating information on births and deaths.  Newspapers may be of assistance as can church records.   Social Security started 14 Aug 1935.  The initiation of this program provided a way to obtain birth information for those who lived long enough to obtain a Social Security Number.  A requirement was proof of birth and as a result, many of those born prior to 1911 had to provide proof of birth and would then obtain a Delayed Birth CertificateThese can be obtained from Vital Statistics in the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (https://www.chfs.ky.gov).  NOTE:  Because these are not as common today, newer employees may not be aware of them at the Vital Statistics office, so please be nice and ask to talk to someone who is aware of these if the individual in not certain of what you are asking for.  Online requests can also be made via their website.

If Vital Statistics cannot locate one, all is not lost.  The second option is requesting and obtaining an SS5 from the Social Security Office (this can be done online).  This form is the application the individual filed to obtain a SSN.  There is a fee and you will need to state your relationship to the deceased.  You do need to be clear that the individual you are requesting this for is deceased – otherwise, they may redact some of the very information you are looking for!

Prior to 1852 – There was no formal process for record keeping of births on either the state or county level.  For this period, you will need to search for Bible records, surviving newspaper announcements, Cemetery records etc.  Indirect evidence is often used to guesstimate a birth year, such as tax lists, marriage records, probate files etc.

MARRIAGE RECORDS

Unlike birth and death records, marriage records have been around pretty consistently. There is a range of marriage documents created throughout the process    Each type of record can provide different/supplemental information and was created with a specific purpose-thus the information provided will vary.

Consent/Permission – If the bride and/or groom were under the age of 21, then someone-usually a family member or guardian would have to provide consent/permission.  If they were already of age- you may see an ‘of age’ noted on document and that clues you in to their being at least 21 years old.  Sometimes you may come across a woman giving her consent to marry the specific individual. These are often ‘loose papers’ which means that they could be in any order, not likely indexed but may be somewhat organized by date.  These may be found at the courthouse or on microfilm. A consent/permission does not indicate that the marriage actually took place.

Bond – Marriage was taken seriously and a bond was requested to ensure that there was no known reason that the parties could not get married.  Generally, a representative for the groom and one for the bride put up the bond.  These representatives were usually family or friends of the family.  A bond does not indicate that the marriage took place.

License – Once the consent/permission was provided and the bond was taken care of, a license would be issued.  In the early years, this was likely on a scrap piece of paper and usually was just a statement indicating that it was a license to marry.  Later on, license information was documented in the marriage record filed in the courthouse.  Also, in later years, part of the documentation provided in the marriage books included names of parents, ages of bride and groom, number of marriages, etc.  The license does not indicate that the marriage took place.

Certificate – The Certificate DOES indicate that the marriage had taken place.  The official/Minister performing the ceremony gave the certificate to the married couple.  The Certificate usually included the person who performed the marriage, the location, date and witnesses.  Marriages usually occurred in the county where the bride resided.  These may be harder to find as the couple maintained the original.

Register/Ministers Return –  Once the official/minister performed the marriage, by law, the record of this had to be filed at the courthouse.  For early records, it is helpful to remember that Kentucky had traveling preachers and these returns may or may not have been filed in the county of marriage, it may have been filed in another county as the preacher traveled.  These records may be found on Ancestry, Family Search,  in the originating county, Kentucky History Center and Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives (KDLA).

DEATH RECORDS 

All records need to be analyzed carefully and this is especially significant when evaluated Death Certificates.  When looking at documents we need to keep in mind when and how the document was created and how close in time the information provided was to the actual event.  For example, the information regarding death date, cause of death and burial were created closest to the creation of the death certificate and should therefore be reliable.  Whereas the information regarding the date of birth and parents would be provided by an Informant.  Depending upon the relationship of this informant, the information may have errors.

ca 1965 to present – Current Death Certificates can be obtained through Vital Statistics in the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (https://www.chfs.ky.gov).

1911 – ca 1965 – Death Certificates have been kept at the state level since 1911.  Images of these can be found on Family Search, Ancestry.com, at the Kentucky History Center and the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives.  Although these are required by the state, there are many instances where no record can be found-especially in more rural areas, during the first years of requirement and other occasions such as during the Depression.  Name spellings will vary and nicknames may be used in lieu of the first name.

Between 1852 and 1910 – Two separate attempts were made to keep death records/registers at the county level.  Unfortunately, not all counties complied and not all records survived.  These records were created within the county and information was obtained based on people reporting it sometimes not until they made a trip to town. These can be accessed via Ancestry, Family Search.org and on microfilm at KDLA and the Kentucky History Center.  NOTE:  Some cities may have additional death records that were unique to that city.

Prior to 1852 – There was no formal process for record keeping of death on either the state or county level.  For this period, there may be Bible records, church records, newspaper items and cemetery records.  Indirect evidence is often used to guesstimate a death year, such as tax lists, marriage records, probate files etc.  County Court Order Book records can provide a year but not always the day or month as the focus was recording the filing of probate, inventory, sale, settlement etc.

AS ALWAYS, WITH ANY RECORD, BE SURE AND CHECK WHATEVER LAWS WERE IN PLACE AT THE TIME THE RECORD WAS CREATED.  Virginia, the parent of Kentucky, tended to follow English Law for many years.  Kentucky kept many of those same practices, but also changed and adjusted as time went on.  These changes occurred frequently in the early years.

Happy Hunting!

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