Vermont Vital Records
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originally written by Scott Andrew Bartley and Alice Eichholz, Ph.D, CG
The first settlers of Vermont carried on the early New England tradition of recording events at the town level. The vital records are incomplete before mandatory registration began in 1857, but where they exist before ca. 1820 it is common to find an entire family recorded as a family group. In some cases, although the event was recorded in a particular town, it may have actually occurred in another town or state where the family previously resided. Not all the births were recorded, even for families that did report some. Marriages and deaths in the pre-1857 period were less likely to be recorded.
What was recorded, with some exceptions, has been extracted from the originals in the towns and indexed in a central file held by the Vermont Public Records Division Vermont Public Records Division (see Archives, Libraries, and Societies). All events indexed up to the last five years can be seen in person or ordered from the division’s new facility at 1078 U.S. Rt. 2, Middlesex, VT (Exit 9 on Interstate 89). The mailing address is General Services Administration, Drawer 33, Montpelier, VT 05633-7601.
Anyone can search the microfilm at the Public Records Division at no charge, or a search can be requested by mail for a charge of $9.50 per event. This cost includes a certified copy of the microfilmed index card, if found, containing a reference for locating the original record in the individual town records. The microfilmed card index is broken down into five time periods: 1760–1870; 1871–1908; 1909–41; 1942–54; 1955–1979; and then yearly from 1980 up to, but not including, the most recent five years. The statewide index was created between 1919 and 1920. The state’s Vital Records Office (see below) transfers all but the last five years to the Public Records Division. Separate cards for births, marriages (both bride and groom), death, and cemetery records are in the index. Cemetery cards, however, appear only in the 1760–1870 microfilm grouping. The statewide index was created from 1919 to 1920, and in the process, the state surveyed all the cemeteries in Vermont to record deaths before 1857, the year mandatory recording began. Generally, only those gravestones that were still standing in 1919, and mentioned deaths before 1857, were included in the survey and therefore in the index.
Vital records for only the last five years are found at the Vital Records Office , 108 Cherry St., P.O. Box 70, Burlington, VT 05402 . All earlier records are at the Public Records Division. Files are open to the public but accessed by a clerk. The cost, either in person or by mail, is $9.50 (in 2004) per event.
No thorough survey has ever been taken to determine whether some towns’ early vital records were inadvertently missed in the statewide index. It is known that Holland, Sheffield, Maidstone, and Troy vital records were not included, and some vital records from Burlington in the 1870s seem to be missing entirely.
After 1857, many births were recorded before a child was named. Unnamed infants are listed in reverse chronological order in the front of that surname’s listing in the card index. The index is filed in strict alphabetical order. Variants in spellings must be checked thoroughly.
Microfilm copies of the vital records indexes, in the same five time periods described above through 1979 and then in yearly groupings through 1990, are available at the New England Historic Genealogical Society (see page 13) and through the Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City.
The online subscription database at <www.ancestry.com> includes the Vermont death index, 1909–2008 and Vermont Death Index, 1981-2001 . You can also find Swanton, Franklin county, Vermont, Church Records, 1872-1934: Saint Mary's Church Death Records.
While the state issues a certified copy of the microfilmed index card as its “official” record, the original record is in the town clerk’s office, often recorded with other family vital records, may provide additional information helpful in research. Once the index card has been located with the reference for the original record, it is often important to obtain a copy of the event as it appears in its original form. The reference on the index card will indicate where to locate the event in the town’s original records. Since a large majority of the town’s original records are also on microfilm in the Public Records Division, microfilm copies of the originals can be researched there. Vermont’s town records before 1850 are also on microfilm through the FHL, although the holdings are not as complete as at the Public Records Division.
The Public Records Division has a separate statewide microfilm index for divorce decrees (1861 to 1968); the decree books themselves are also microfilmed and available there. Summary divorce papers (1968–1979) are arranged alphabetically by surname in one group at the division.