Texas Vital Records
This entry was originally written by Wendy Bebout Elliott, Ph.D. FUGA for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.
Between 1873 and 1876, some births were recorded by county district clerks. Many of these were included in Early Texas Birth Records, 1838–1878 (reprint. Easley, S.C.: Southern Historical Press, 1982) by Alice Duggan Gracy, Jane Duggan Sumner, and Emma Gene S. Gentry. Beginning in 1903 county clerks began to register births and deaths, although compliance was not universal at first. Large cities with vital records offices maintained their own series of birth and death records. Justices of the peace also recorded births.
Mandatory recording of births and deaths began in 1903. Copies of records registered in the counties are maintained at the Texas Vital Statistics division of the Department of State Health Services, 1100 W. 49th St., Austin, TX (mailing address: P.O. Box 12040, Austin, TX 78711-2040) . For fast, affordable service, order birth certificates, death certificates, and birth, death, marriage, and divorce verification letters through TexasOnline, the official eGovernment site for the State of Texas. (http://www.texasonline.state.tx.us/tolapp/ovra/) Statewide indexes were microfilmed by the Texas State Library (see Texas Archives, Libraries, and Societies), and are available at many genealogical libraries. The birth index (1903–76) is alphabetized by year. The death index is alphabetical within broader periods of time (1903–40, 1940–45, 1946–55, then annually for 1956–73). The Genealogy Section of the Texas State Library provides limited correspondence service by checking indexes for a particular name for a small fee. If a birth or death record is not found at the state level, it is prudent to check the proper municipal or county office. Online indexes for Texas death records (1964–98) can be found at www.ancestry.com.
Probated or delayed birth registrations were sometimes submitted to the respective county court for probate matters. These were then forwarded to the State Bureau of Vital Statistics. Microfilm indexes to delayed birth records may have included Texas residents born elsewhere, many of whom were seeking Social Security registration. The bureau ended delayed birth registration in 1959.
Marriage records prior to 1836, if extant, may be in custody of the Roman Catholic Church. Beginning with the date of organization most counties maintain marriage records. These are presently in the jurisdiction of the respective county clerk where the license was issued. Statewide recording of marriages began in January 1966, but certified copies of records are not available through the state office. Marriage records for African Americans were frequently recorded in separate volumes.
Members of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) have compiled many marriage records for Texas. These are available in the DAR Library in Washington, D.C., and on microfilm through the Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City.
Consult the County Resource section in this chapter and the Guide to Public Vital Statistics Records in Texas (n.p.: Historical Records Survey, 1941) to determine availability of vital records in municipal and county offices.
Divorce records have been maintained statewide by the Bureau of Vital Statistics since January 1968, but certified copies are not available from this facility. Divorce records are kept under the jurisdiction of the respective clerk of the district court. During the first years of the Republic of Texas, divorces were granted by special acts of Congress, but in 1841 district courts took over this responsibility, with some exceptions. After statehood, district courts had full jurisdiction over divorces.
A sampling of published works containing Texas vital records include:
- Dodd, Jordan R. Texas Marriages: Early to 1850, a Research Tool. Bountiful, Utah: Precision Indexing, 1990.
- Grammer, Norma Rutledge. Marriage Records of Early Texas, 1824–46. Fort Worth: Fort Worth Genealogical Society, 1971.
- Smith, Bennett L. Marriage by Bond in Colonial Texas. Fort Worth: by author, 1972.
- Swenson, Helen Smothers. 8800 Texas Marriages, 1824–1850. Round Rock, Tex.: n.p., 1981.
- White, Gifford. 1830 Citizens of Texas: A Genealogy of Anglo-American and Mexican Citizens Taken from Census and Other Records. Austin, Tex.: Eakin Press, 1999. Includes registers of birth.
FamilySearch.org has a variety of collections available for free online:
- Texas, Births and Christenings, 1840-1981
- Texas, Birth Certificates, 1903-1935
- Texas, Birth Index, 1903-1997
- Texas, County Marriage Index, 1837-1977
- Texas, Marriages, 1837-1973
- Texas, Marriages, 1966-2010
- Texas, Divorce Index, 1968-2010
- Texas, Deaths (New Index, New Images), 1890-1976
- Texas, Deaths, 1890-1976
- Texas, Death Index, 1903-2000
- Texas, Deaths and Burials, 1903-1973
- Texas, Death Index, 1964-1998
- Texas, Deaths, 1977-1986