North Carolina Vital Records
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This entry was originally written by Johni Cerny and Gareth L. Mark for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.
On 10 March 1913, the North Carolina General Assembly ratified an act requiring the registration of births and deaths in the state; virtually full compliance was achieved by 1920, with some delayed birth records for earlier dates eventually added. The indexes to these records are available in the county where the event took place or on microfilm at the North Carolina State Archives and the Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City.
Copies of original birth certificates can be obtained from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Vital Records, 1903 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1903 http://vitalrecords.nc.gov/vitalrecords/. The County Register of Deeds in the county where the birth was filed may be able to provide a copy of a birth certificate. The FHL has 305 reels of microfilm containing North Carolina Birth Certificates (1913–22).
Copies of death records can be obtained from the office of the County Register of Deeds and from the Office of Vital Records (cited above). The North Carolina State Archives also has death certificates for those who died between 1913 and 1955 on microfilm in the Search Room. The microfilm collection of the FHL has death certificates (1906–94); still births (1814–1953); fetal deaths (1960–74), and an index (1906–67).
Most marriages performed before 1668 were not recorded. A 1669 law required that each marriage be registered, but based on the few events that were recorded, compliance was very low. Marriages could be solemnized by Church of England ministers or any member of the colony’s council, including the governor; in 1741, the justices of the peace were extended the right to perform marriages. Citizens had to publish banns three times or obtain a marriage license; most marriages were by publication of banns. When the marriage was by license, the groom executed a marriage bond in the bride’s county of residence; some marriage bonds have survived for about half of North Carolina’s counties. Index to Marriage Bonds Filed in the North Carolina State Archives is a microfiche index to both brides and grooms of marriage bonds available at the North Carolina State Archives. The index may be used in the Search Room at the archives, and a copy is available through the FHL. See Archives, Libraries, and Societies for information about searches by mail at the North Carolina State Archives.
After 1868, the register of deeds in each county was given the task of issuing marriage licenses. These licenses and their accompanying certificates offer a wealth of information, including age when married, parents’ names (if the parents were living), parents’ residences, and consent when required. Marriage records from 1868 to 1962 are on file with the register of deeds in the county where the marriage took place. Most North Carolina marriage records dating from 1868 to 1950 have been microfilmed and are available at the North Carolina State Archives and the FHL. Marriage records dating from 1962 are available at the Division of Health Services.
The superior court in each county has granted divorce decrees since 1814. Details about divorces that were not included in court minutes are very valuable to researchers. They include “loose papers” that discuss reasons for the divorce, details of the family’s composition, children’s ages, and other information. Copies of pre-1868 divorce records are at the North Carolina State Archives; records dating from 1868 are available from each county’s superior court clerk.
FamilySearch.org has a variety of collections available for free online:
- North Carolina, Birth Index, 1800-2000
- North Carolina, Births and Christenings, 1866-1964
- North Carolina, Marriages, 1759-1979
- North Carolina, County Marriages, 1762-1979
- North Carolina, Deaths and Burials, 1898-1994
- North Carolina, Deaths, 1906-1930
- North Carolina, Deaths, 1931-1994
- North Carolina Birth, Marriage, and Death Records - free up-to-date guide to accessing North Carolina birth, marriage, and death records (FamilySearch Research Wiki). Includes links to FamilySearch vital record databases.