District of Columbia Vital Records

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This entry was originally written by Johni Cerny in Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.

This article is part of
The District of Columbia Family History Research series.
History of the District of Columbia
District of Columbia Vital Records
Census Records for the District of Columbia
Background Sources for the District of Columbia
District of Columbia Maps
District of Columbia Land Records
District of Columbia Probate Records
District of Columbia Court Records
District of Columbia Tax Records
District of Columbia Cemetery Records
District of Columbia Church Records
District of Columbia Military Records
District of Columbia Periodicals, Newspapers, and Manuscript Collections
District of Columbia Archives, Libraries, and Societies
District of Columbia Immigration
African Americans of the District of Columbia
District of Columbia County Resources


Birth and death records for the District of Columbia date from 1 August 1874, and can be obtained for a fee from the Department of Human Services, Vital Records Division, 825 N. Capitol Street, NE, 1st Floor, Rm. 1312, Washington, DC 20002. Credit card orders can be made by calling (202) 783-1809. The public may not examine vital records in person; however, District of Columbia law states that when 100 years have elapsed after the date of birth or fifty years after the date of death, those documents become public records and anyone may obtain a copy upon submitting a proper application. Anyone who can prove a relationship to a person of record can obtain a copy of that individual’s record for research purposes. Vital records for the District of Columbia at The Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City include microfilm copies of births (1874–97), deaths (1855–1965), and death indexes (1855–1949 and 1855–1965). Death records do not exist for the Civil War years (1861–65).

Marriage records date from December 1811 and continue to the present. Indexes are available through 1921; after that, records are filed chronologically. When fifty years have elapsed after the date of the marriage, a record becomes public and anyone may obtain a copy upon application. Copies of records may be obtained from the Clerk of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, Marriage Bureau & Special Services, 500 Indiana Ave., N.W., Rm. 4335, Washington, DC 20001.

The FHL has microfilm copies of marriages (1811–54, 1870–1921, and 1907–50), and a marriage index (1811–1986) for the District of Columbia.

Divorce records in the nation’s capitol date from 1803. Early proceedings are logged in the divorce docket (1803–48), consist of four volumes, and are located at the Washington National Records Center in Suitland, Maryland (see page 12). Full divorce records (1803–September 1956) can be obtained from the Clerk of the U.S. District Court, Constitution Ave. and John Marshall Pl., N.W., Washington, DC 20001. Records after that (September 1956-present) are available from the Clerk of the Superior Court, Family Division, 500 Indiana Ave., N.W., Washington, DC 20001.

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