Arkansas Vital Records
This entry was originally written by Wendy Bebout Elliott, Ph.D., FUGA for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.
Statewide registration of births and deaths in Arkansas did not begin until February 1914. Compliance was not complete for approximately three decades. The Division of Vital Records, Arkansas Department of Health, 4815 W. Markham St., Little Rock, AR 72201, has records from that date. Some local vital records for Little Rock and Fort Smith are maintained by the Arkansas History Commission. When requesting copies, include a statement of purpose and your relationship. Delayed birth certificates are also available.
In addition to death records noted in newspapers (see Arkansas Periodicals, Newspapers, and Manuscript Collections), Arkansas Genealogical Society’s Masonic Deaths in Arkansas, 1838–1916 (Hot Springs: Arkansas Genealogical Society, 1999) contains abstracts and supplemented data compiled from annual proceedings of the Grand Lodge. See also vital record resources published by Desmond Walls Allen through Arkansas Research, Inc.. Ancestry.com also has a database of death records at Arkansas Death Index, 1914-1950.
Statewide registration of marriage did not begin until 1917, but once counties were organized, most of them began recording marriages. The Division of Vital Records maintains marriage records only since 1917. Earlier records must be obtained from the respective county clerk where the license was issued, which is frequently the county of the bride’s residence. Many early marriage records include names of bride and groom, ages, and residence. Later records contain more information. The Arkansas History Commission has indexes to marriage records on microfiche for the years 1933–39. These are marriages reported to the Arkansas Health Department, alphabetically arranged by groom’s names and referenced by the county in which the marriage was recorded.
Ancestry.com has a variety of Arkansas marriage databases including:
- Arkansas Marriages, 1779-1992
- Arkansas Marriages, 1820-1949
- Arkansas Marriages to 1850
- Arkansas Marriages, 1851-1900
- Arkansas Marriage Index, 1933-1939
Full certified copies of divorce records may be obtained from the circuit or chancery clerk in the respective county in which the divorce was granted. Records of divorces granted beginning in 1923 are also available from the Division of Vital Records. The Arkansas History Commission has an index to some Arkansas divorce records reported to the Arkansas Health Department on microfiche (1923–27 and 1934–39). You can find a database of divorce records on Ancestry.com at Arkansas Divorce Index, 1923-1939.
Many county vital records have been microfilmed by the Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City; copies are held by the Arkansas History Commission. To access the microfilm number and determine which records have been microfilmed, see the FHL catalog or www.ark-ives.com/selected_materials/index.php.