Indiana Vital Records
This entry was originally written by Carol L. Maki and Michael John Neill for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.
The first law regulating marriages in Indiana occurred in 1788, but marriage licenses became mandatory in 1800. The statutes of the Northwest Territory required that 1) the banns be read fifteen days before the marriage, 2) the male be seventeen years of age, and 3) the female be fourteen years of age.
Marriage licenses and certificates have been issued by and kept at the county clerk’s office, generally beginning with the formation of each respective county to the present. Marriage applications, beginning in 1906 (with additional family information) and marriage transcripts (1882) may have both been used in various counties. Prior to 1940 it was necessary for a couple to obtain a license from the county in which the female resided. If an Indiana ancestor’s marriage record cannot be located in that state, check the Cincinnati marriage records; this area was a “Gretna Green” (no-questions-asked marriage locale) for Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana.
Statewide collection of marriages from the counties did not begin until 1958. The Indiana Marriage Index, compiled by the State Board of Health, Division of Vital Records, 1330 W. Michigan St., Indianapolis, IN 46207 begins in 1958. Marriages are indexed by bride and groom, indicating county of license, marriage, and date. Annual indexes for 1958 to 1965 are in book form; indexes from 1966 to 1981 are on microfilm, available at the Indiana State Archives, Indiana Commission on Public Records.
Birth and death records were recorded by the county health office beginning in 1882, where they remained before mandatory recording with the state board of health began in October 1907 for births and in January 1900 for deaths. There are no indexes to the state death certificates from 1900 to 1918. Certified copies may be obtained from either the county health department or the Division of Vital Records (address above). Some cities have earlier birth registrations: Ft. Wayne (1870), Indianapolis (1872), Kokomo (1875), and Logansport (1874). Those with births before the 1882 registration deadline may wish to reference Dawne Slater-Putt, Pre-1882 Indiana Births from Secondary Sources, volumes 1 and 2 (Fort Wayne, Ind.: Heritage Pathways, Inc., 1999).
The Works Projects Administration (WPA) began to index vital records, county-by-county, for the entire state, but the agency was abolished before the project was completed. Only sixty-eight of the ninety-two counties had their birth and death records (1882–1920) and marriages (generally 1850–1920) collected. The completed county indexes are available in print at the Indiana State Library and Allen County Public Library among others.
Several more recent projects have involved indexing marriage records for the state before 1955. Indiana Marriages Thru 1820: In the Counties of Washington, Jefferson, Clark, Scott, Jackson, Jennings, Switzerland, Ripley (Indianapolis: Researchers of Indianapolis, 1981) and The Hoosier Genealogist, which frequently publishes marriage abstracts, are two such projects. An index for pre-1850 Indiana marriages is available at the Indiana State Library’s website www.statelib.lib.in.us/www/isl/indiana/genealogy/mirr.html via the Indiana State Library.
Divorce records are kept in the office of the circuit court. Since Indiana had no residency requirements until 1859, it is very possible to find divorce records for numerous individuals from other states in the Indiana files. In 1991, Heritage Quest published the CD-ROM version of Indiana Vital Records Collection, which contains over 5.4 million vital records registrations compiled by the Indiana Works Progress Administration in 1942.
Ancestry.com has the following Indiana vital record collections:
- Indiana Births, 1880-1920
- Indiana Marriage Collection, 1800-1941
- Indiana Marriages, 1802-1892
- Indiana Marriages to 1850
- Indiana Deaths, 1882-1920
- Jasper County, Indiana Deaths, 1921-77
FamilySearch.org has a variety of collections available for free online:
- Indiana, Births and Christenings, 1773-1933
- Indiana, Marriages, 1780-1992
- Indiana, Marriages, 1811-1959 (includes images)
- Indiana, Death Index, 1882-1920
- Indiana Birth, Marriage, and Death Records - free up-to-date guide to accessing Indiana birth, marriage, and death records (FamilySearch Research Wiki). Includes links to FamilySearch vital record databases.