Alabama Vital Records
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This entry was originally written by Robert S. Davis and Mary Bess Paluzzi for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.
A limited amount of information concerning births and deaths of a few individuals before 1881 is available indirectly from probate court records. Such records include guardianships, apprenticeships, recorded wills, and the various other records maintained in the settlement and division of an estate.
An act of 1881 provided that all births and deaths were to be registered with a county health officer. Later legislation required that these registrations be made within the first five days after the birth or death and required that the county health officer’s registry books be deposited with the county probate judge. Such records, when they survive at all, are found today in the individual county probate courts. The date for the beginning of mandatory state-level registration of births and deaths in Alabama is 1 January 1908.
All original birth and death records are now filed with the Alabama Department of Public Health. A fee of $12 is charged for a record search and one certified copy of a certificate. A $4 charge is made for each additional copy requested at the same time. A fee of $15 is required to amend an omission or to amend information that was incorrectly given. Allow six to eight weeks for each request. Certified copies of birth and death certificates may be requested from Alabama Vital Records, P.O. Box 5625, Montgomery, AL 36103-5625.
Birth, death, marriage (1936– ), and divorce (1950– ) records can be obtained at the appropriate Alabama county health department or through the Alabama Center for Health Statistics website at http://ph.state.al.us/chs/VitalRecords/VRECORDS.HTML.
Indexes to Alabama death certificates (1908–59), birth certificates (1917–19), deaths of convicts (1884–1952), and divorce records (1818–64, 1908–37, 1950–59) are widely available on microfilm. They can be ordered through local Family History Centers, which work with the Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City. Researchers can access Alabama death certificates (1908–74), marriage records (1936–92), and divorce decrees (1818–64, 1908–92) on microfilm. The index to death certificates is available through www.ancestry.com.
A marriage license has been required since the territorial period in 1799. Marriage licenses were issued by the clerk of the county Orphans’ Courts in which the bride resided. After 1850 the orphans’ court was superseded by the probate court, which is still charged with the issuance of marriage licenses.
To enter into a marriage contract a man had to be at least seventeen years of age and a woman had to be at least fourteen years of age. If the man was under twenty-one or the woman under eighteen and as yet unmarried, the consent of the parent or guardian of the minor was required before a license could be issued. The marriage of these licensed parties could then be solemnized by a territorial, state, or county judge, an ordained minister, or a justice of the peace. The officiant was then required to file a marriage certificate with the probate judge of the county in which the marriage took place.
Before 1888, a marriage certificate indicated the names of the bride, groom, bondsmen, and officiant along with the license bond and marriage date. Starting in 1910 records may also include the names of parents, physical descriptions, ages and occupations of the parties, the number of previous marriages for each, and the blood relationship, if any, between the parties.
A certified copy of a marriage certificate may be obtained from the probate judge of the county in which the certificate was filed and recorded. A fee is required, and six to eight weeks should be allowed for response to a request.
Though divorce decrees were tried in county chancery court until 1865, the state legislature had the exclusive right to finalize all divorce decrees. These early decrees are thus a part of the legislative record and are published in the Senate and House Journals.
After 1865 the county chancery court was authorized to issue final divorce decrees. In 1917 the chancery court was merged with the circuit court of the county. Thus, divorce records from 1819 are maintained among the equity records of the circuit court of the county in which the suit was filed. Though not required by law, several county clerks maintained divorce records separate from other equity files. A certified copy of a divorce certificate may be obtained from the circuit court clerk in the county in which the divorce suit was tried. A fee is required, and six to eight weeks should be allowed for response.