Minnesota Vital Records
This entry was originally written by Carol L. Maki and Michael John Neill for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.
Legislation that ordered recording of county vital records was passed in 1870. In some counties marriage registrations began before that date, but these early records are somewhat incomplete. Researchers may request birth, death, or marriage records from the office of the court administrator or clerk of district court in the respective county courthouse. Some counties have recently begun to transfer their birth, death, and marriage records to the office of the county recorder.
In 1907 the Minnesota Vital Records law was enacted, giving the state the responsibility of keeping birth and death records. This office has birth records starting in 1900 and death records starting in 1908. The Minnesota Historical Society has an online death certificate index that currently runs from 1908 to 1996. There is no statewide marriage index until 1958 and the statewide divorce index begins in 1970, but these two statewide indexes only provide verification of the marriage or divorce. The specific county where the event occurred will also need to be contacted. More information (including current fees) can be obtained from the Minnesota Department of Health, Section of Vital Statistics, Attention: Office of the State Registrar, P.O. Box 9441, Minneapolis, MN 55440.
Some limited county vital records registers have been transferred to the Minnesota Historical Society Research Center, although access may be restricted. The center holds justice of the peace (marriage) records from some counties and coroner’s inquest (death) registers. Other alternate sources for vital records may include local genealogical societies that have transcribed and indexed vital records and obituaries from their respective counties. The Minnesota Genealogical Journal (Roseville, Minn.: Park Genealogical Books, 1984) has transcriptions of marriages from several Minnesota counties. This publication has also printed extractions of marriage records, which include Minnesota people in Pierce and St. Croix counties, Wisconsin.
The Works Progress Administration (WPA) Historical Records Survey of township vital records was published in Guide to Public Vital Statistics Records in Minnesota. Many of these records have since been transferred to the Minnesota Historical Society.
Township records may include some vital statistics. Deaths and births may have been reported to townships or cities from 1870 through 1953. If these records are extant (and many are not), they will frequently contain more information than the county or state record. Many of these locally created vital records are at the Minnesota Historical Society Research Center. Township records may also include the clerk’s minute books and township road records, indicating names of residents. If they exist, justice of the peace records are likely to be in these materials as well.
School records, rather than vital registrations, can often be used to help determine the age of an individual. Many of these are at the Minnesota Historical Society Research Center.
FamilySearch.org has a variety of collections available for free online:
- Minnesota, Births and Christenings, 1840-1980
- Minnesota, County Birth Records, 1863-1983
- Minnesota, Birth Index, 1935-2002
- Minnesota, Marriages, 1849-1950
- Minnesota, County Marriages, 1860-1949
- Minnesota, Marriage Index, 1958-2001
- Minnesota, Divorce Index, 1970-1995
- Minnesota, Deaths and Burials, 1835-1990
- Minnesota, Death Records, 1866-1916
- Minnesota, Death Index, 1908-2002
- Minnesota Birth, Marriage, and Death Records - free up-to-date guide to accessing Minnesota birth, marriage, and death records (FamilySearch Research Wiki). Includes links to FamilySearch vital record databases.