Connecticut Vital Records
This entry was originally written by Alice Eichholz, Ph.D., CG, in Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.
Marriages were recorded in Connecticut as early as 1640. By 1650, registration of births, marriages, and deaths had become the town clerk’s responsibility. Since a fine was assessed for not recording an event, some industrious town clerks have excellent, fairly complete records; however, others do not. Following the Revolution to the mid-nineteenth century, the recording is not as thorough, but by 1870, when the State Board of Health was established, recording in all towns improved.
Recording of vital events has always been the town clerk’s responsibility. After 1 July 1897, copies of vital records from every town were sent to the Department of Public Health, Vital Records Section, 410 Capitol Ave., First Floor, P.O. Box 340308, Hartford, CT 06134-0308.
There is no statewide index to Connecticut vital records between about 1850 and 1897. It is therefore necessary to know the town in which the event occurred to locate a record for those years. Census records and city directories may be helpful in determining the town. Original Connecticut vital records from the beginning of each town to about 1900 have been microfilmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah and are available for use at the Connecticut State Library or through local Family History Centers.
Although some statewide indexes to vital records after 1897 are available through the Vital Records Section, many of the state’s copies of vital records from 1897 to the present are closed for an indefinite period as part of a microfilming and indexing project. Until the section reopens, information will need to be obtained from the town. Subscription Internet database <www.ancestry.com> includes statewide Connecticut deaths (1949– ) and marriages (before1850 and after 1959– ).
“An Act Concerning Access to Genealogical Records and the Validation of Certain Marriages” (Public Act No. 96-258) provides that birth records less than one hundred years old are only open to certain parties, including the individual in question, her/his guardian or legal representative, or a member of a genealogical society incorporated or authorized to do business or conduct affairs in Connecticut. A list of genealogical societies encompassed by this law can be found at www.cslib.org/genesoc.htm.
The Lucius Barnes Barbour Collection, well known to the Connecticut researcher, serves as an index to and an abstract of most pre-1850 Connecticut vital records. It is housed in the Connecticut State Library, but microfilm copies of it are widely available. Begun after establishment of the State Department of Health, Barbour’s project was to abstract and collect all town vital records up to about 1850. There are two formats to the material. The first is a statewide paper slip alphabetical index containing a complete abstract of each vital record taken from the books in each town. The card file holding this index takes up an entire wall at the Connecticut State Library. The second format is the group of separately bound volumes of abstracts of vital records for most towns, prepared from the slips.
Since not all vital events were recorded in the town office before mandatory recording, church and cemetery records need to be consulted as well as other genealogical alternatives to official records.
Divorces are presently granted by the superior court, although this was not always the case. Most of the early records for Connecticut divorces to the mid-twentieth century are at the Connecticut State Library, including the packets of original documents and the superior court records books. Recent divorce packets remain in the court. Grace L. Knox and Barbara Ferris published a two-volume index to early Connecticut divorce packets through Heritage Books. Volume 1 covers New London, Tolland, and Windham counties; volume 2 covers Litchfield and Hartford counties. For details on changes of jurisdiction for divorces in Connecticut, see Henry S. Cohn’s “Connecticut’s Divorce Mechanism, 1636–1969,” The American Journal of Legal History 14 (January 1970): 35-54, which is summarized in an information leaflet on divorce records available from the Connecticut State Library and on its website.