Colorado Vital Records
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This entry was originally written by Dwight A. Radford, Thelma Berkey Walsmith, and Nell Sachse Woodard for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.
A law enacted in 1875 provided for registration of births and deaths, but compliance was sporadic and minimal. Some early vital records may be located in the county courthouses or the county health departments, but their location is not consistent. The Guide to Vital Statistics of Colorado, prepared by Colorado Historical Records Survey, Division of Community Service Programs of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), is out of date but remains the only comprehensive state guide. Volume 1 of the publication describes the records held by public archives, and volume 2 discusses those held in church archives. This guide is located in the Colorado Historical Society Library (see Colorado Archives, Libraries, and Societies) as well as other major libraries and repositories.
Statewide registration of births began in 1910; registration for deaths began earlier, in 1900. Although the county health departments existed in one form or another from 1900, Colorado did not join the national death registration system until 1906. Birth registration was even later, beginning in 1928. Birth and death records are available from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Vital Records Section, 4300 Cherry Creek Drive South, Denver, CO 80246-1530. Some restrictions determine who may gain access to these records, with death records more available than birth. A list of persons eligible to apply for the records is printed on the back of the application form. Some relatives of a deceased individual who are pursuing genealogical research may be issued a death certificate. Application forms, rules, and current prices are all available on the office’s website at www.cdphe.state.co.us/hs/certs.asp.
Some county health departments do have incomplete birth records from earlier dates that are not available at the state level. Unless they have been turned over to the Colorado State Archives, they are still held by the county health department.
The county’s clerk and recorder maintains marriage records (generally available from the early days of the county), and the clerk of the district court holds divorce records. A statewide list of marriages and divorces indexed by name of the groom exists for the years 1900 through 1939 (with one quarter of entries pre-1900) and is located at the Colorado State Archives and Denver Public Library—Western History and Genealogy Department (see Colorado Archives, Libraries, and Societies) and the Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City. Denver Public Library has an online version of the marriage index (1975-present) that will include brides as well as grooms at http://history.denverlibrary.org/research/genealogy.html. Ancestry.com has a collection of marriage records from Mesa, Arapahoe, and Boulder counties at Colorado Marriages, 1859-1900.
FamilySearch.org has a variety of collections available for free online:
- Colorado, County Marriages, 1864-1995
- Colorado Statewide Marriage Index, 1853-2006
- Colorado Statewide Divorce Index, 1900-1939
The divorces are indexed online at www.sctc.state.co.us/marriages/divorces.aspx. Both agencies have a microfiche marriage index, by bride and groom (1975-present) and a divorce index (1968-present). An up-to-date version of these indexes for this later time period is being made available online at www.cdphe.state.co.us/hs/marriage.html.
The Colorado Historical Society has a small card catalog index for early vital records (births, deaths, marriages) that appeared in Colorado newspapers between 1860 and 1940. The general index in the Denver Public Library—Western History and Genealogy Department also includes many births, marriages, and deaths, mostly taken from newspaper references.
The Colorado Genealogical Society (see Archives, Libraries, and Societies) publication Marriages of Arapahoe County, Colorado, 1859–1901 (Denver: the society, 1986) includes marriages from the area of Colorado that later evolved into the counties of Adams, Arapahoe, Denver, Clear Creek, Jefferson, Elbert, Lincoln, Washington, and the others located in east central Colorado. The certificates themselves are located at the Colorado State Archives.
- Colorado Birth, Marriage, and Death Records - free up-to-date guide to accessing Colorado birth, marriage, and death records (FamilySearch Research Wiki). Includes links to FamilySearch vital record databases.