Delaware Vital Records

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This entry was originally written by Roger D. Joslyn, CG, FUGA, FGBS, FASG, in Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.

This article is part of
the Delaware Family History Research series.
History of Delaware
Delaware Vital Records
Census Records for Delaware
Background Sources for Delaware
Delaware Maps
Delaware Land Records
Delaware Probate Records
Delaware Court Records
Delaware Tax Records
Delaware Cemetery Records
Delaware Church Records
Delaware Military Records
Delaware Periodicals, Newspapers, and Manuscript Collections
Delaware Archives, Libraries, and Societies
Delaware Immigration
Delaware Naturalization
Ethnic Groups of Delaware
Delaware County Resources
Delaware Special Interests
Map of Delaware


State copies of vital records for Delaware are available from the Office of Vital Statistics, Division of Public Health, Department of Health and Social Services, Jesse S. Cooper Bldg., Federal and Water Streets, P.O. Box 637, Dover, DE 19901-0637. The vital statistics office holds birth records from 1931 and marriages and deaths from 1963. The current fee is $10 for each record requested. Delaware vital records become public records with no restrictions after seventy-two years for births and forty years for marriages and deaths, at which time they are transferred to the Delaware Public Archives. Printable order forms are online at www.state.de.us/dhss/dpn/ss/vitalstats.html.

Earlier records at the Delaware Public Archives (see Archives, Libraries, and Societies) include those formerly at the Office of Vital Statistics, currently covering births and deaths (1861–63), births (1881–1930), deaths (1881–1962), and marriages (1847–1962). Each January, another year of records is transferred from the vital statistics office to the archives. For more information, see the Delaware Public Archives website at www.state.de.us/sos/dpa.

After 1881, the city of Wilmington had a registrar of vital statistics with fairly complete records; the earlier Wilmington records are at the Delaware Public Archives. Elsewhere, recording of vital events was the responsibility of the county recorders of deeds, and recording practices were quite poor until the creation of the vital statistics office in 1913. The archives has recorders of deeds’ records for a very few births and deaths (1861–63, 1881–1913) and for marriages (1847–1913). Also at the archives are county clerks of the peace marriage bonds from 1744 (but more complete after 1793) to 1913, when bonds were no longer required.

For the period 1680 to the present, the Delaware Public Archives also has cards that index births, baptisms, marriages, and deaths from a variety of sources, such as marriage bonds, church and Bible records, and newspaper notices. There is a supplementary index for some deaths (1888–1910). Some Kent County vital records for the late 1600s were recorded in deed books and published in Publications of The Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania 7 (1920): 158-62, and reprinted in The Maryland and Delaware Genealogist 10 (1969) and 11 (1970). Some Kent and Sussex County vital records for the late 1600s to the 1750s were published in the Delaware Genealogical Society Journal 1 (1982): 92-96. A private doctor’s records of births for Sussex County (1835–69) were published in volumes 6–8 of The Maryland and Delaware Genealogist (1965–67). Also, “New Castle County…Court Records … of Illegitimate Births” was published in The Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine 33 (1984): 353-58.

For the period before 1975, divorces should be sought in the county superior courts, of which the prothonotary is the clerk. Some of these records are at the Delaware Public Archives, but permission to see them must first be obtained from the court. After 1975 the records are in the county family court where the divorce was granted. The earliest divorces in Delaware, to 1773, were a matter for the governor and council. The legislature had jurisdiction until 1897, and the superior court has had concurrent jurisdiction from 1832.

Legislative divorces are indexed as private acts in the published Laws of Delaware, 2–20 (1777–1897). Since 1913, courts have been required to register divorces and annulments with the state registrar.

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