Washington Vital Records
This entry was originally written by Dwight A. Radford for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.
Prior to 1891, Washington had no legislative provision for the recording of births and deaths. However, some counties and cities did record births and deaths prior to 1891. These records have been microfilmed, and copies are available at the Washington State Archives. Between 1891 and 1907, birth and death registers were kept on the county level. Many birth and death records from 1891 through 1907 have been microfilmed by the Washington State Archives. The South King County Genealogical Society has transcribed the records to create an index which you can search online.  The mandatory recording of births and deaths on a state level began 1 July 1907, and marriage and divorce records on 1 January 1968.
The filing of marriages with county officials has been required by law since the creation of Washington Territory in 1853. Marriage records such as applications, certificates, and returns usually begin with the date of county formation or shortly thereafter. Prior to 1968, marriages were recorded by the county auditor.
Post-1907 vital records are at the Washington State Department of Health, 112 SE Quince St., P.O. Box 47890, Olympia, WA 98504-7890. The Family History Library (FHL), in Salt Lake City, has microfilmed birth indexes (1907–54), birth records (1907–48), delayed birth certificates (1850–1960), index to delayed births (1900–80), death certificate indexes (1907–79), and death certificates (1907–60). The online subscription database at www.ancestry.com also has the Washington death index (1940–96) and birth indexes (1907–19).
Divorces were granted beginning in 1854 by the district courts of the territory, and these records were kept from 1854 to 1889 by the clerk of the district court. Washington State Department of Health has divorce records from January 1, 1968. For records before these dates, contact the county clerk where the event occurred.
Many records are available for ordering and/or viewing online at the Washington State Digital Archives.
FamilySearch.org has a variety of collections available for free online:
- Washington, County Marriages, 1855-2008
- Washington, County Divorce Records, 1852-1950
- Washington, County Deaths, 1891-1907
- Washington, Death Certificates, 1907-1960
For King County (Seattle), FamilySearch also offers:
- Washington Birth, Marriage, and Death Records - free up-to-date guide to accessing Washington birth, marriage, and death records (FamilySearch Research Wiki). Includes links to FamilySearch vital record databases.