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A brief guide to genealogical resources in the University of Virginia Library.

Vital Records

Vital records are birth, marriage, divorce and death records

The vital records available from each state are different in that each state began to collect vital records at different times. For instance, South Carolina did not begin requiring birth certificates until 1915, so birth information prior to that date must be obtained from other sources, such as newspaper records, church records, family Bibles, correspondence, etc. Each state has its own laws and fees for obtaining copies of vital records -- check the site below for more information.

Vital Records in Virginia

A law requiring the systematic statewide recording of births and deaths was passed by the Virginia General Assembly on April 11, 1853. Every commissioner of revenue registered births and deaths in his district annually and forwarded the information to the clerk of court, who then supplied the information to the state Auditor of Public Accounts. This law continued in effect until 1896. The Auditor turned the lists over to the Bureau of Vital Statistics in 1918 and the registers were later transferred to the state archives. A new law in 1912 reestablished the recording of births and deaths, and in later years added divorce and marriage records.

In Virginia, death, marriage and divorce data become “public” information 25 years after the event; birth data are “public” after 100 years. Virginia birth and death records from 1912 to the present, divorce records since 1918 and marriage records since 1936 are now available in an index form on The Library of Virginia offers free access to these records as a part of their public library database set, As long as one has his or her local public library card number, one can search the files of the official Virginia birth, death, marriage, and divorce records, AND retrieve/download digital copies of those records without charge. You will, however, need to create a free user id and password in order to access the documents.

Ancestry Library Edition vital records

When you click on the images below, you will navigate to a new page to access the content and be required to use your credentials to log in.


link to Ancestry vital records tutorial

Death Records

Death records

SSDI: You can search the Social Security Death Benefit (SSDI) Rolls for free at and also have the SSDI database available, but it's free to a point, then they charge you to continue.

We have a two CD set called Social Security death benefit record (CF00 0156). Computers near the windows in the Government Information Reading Room are set up to access these CDs. The CDs contain approximately 47 million names and are the records of individuals for whom a lump sum payment was made by the Social Security Administration. Some missing entries exist in the 1930s, '40s, '50s and '60s.

Federal Mortality Census Schedules: We also have a microfilm collection containing Federal mortality census schedules, 1850-80 and related indexes in the custody of the Daughters of the American Revolution. These 30 reels of microfilm are located in the Government Information Reading Room microfilm cabinets on Row 4. They list name, age, sex, color, place of birth, occupation, month of death, cause of death for people who died in the year ending June 1 of 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880.  The Federal mortality census schedules are also available electronically on, a database offered by the University Library. also provides access to that database as part of its subscription.

Searching VIRGO for Vital Records

Searching VIRGO for secondary materials on vital records

The University Library does not generally collect vital records information. There is some genealogical information of this sort (Bibles, newspapers, family records) in the Small Special Collections Library, but it is not collected in a systematic way.

The Library does have some printed books that contain vital records information that has been transcribed from the courthouse records of various counties. To find these records, check under the Library of Congress (LC) subject headings below:

  • Registers of births, etc.
  • Marriage records
  • Obituaries

You can specify the location by state alone, or by state and county or city:

  • Registers of births, etc.--Virginia--Albemarle County
  • Marriage records--Virginia--Albemarle County
  • Obituaries--Virginia--Charlottesville

A better source for this secondary material is the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society Library, located in the McIntire Library Building downtown.

Useful Links on Adoption Records

Information on Adoption records in CyndisList.

Useful Websites on Vital Records

Useful Websites on vital records:

National Center for Health Statistics Information page from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on where to write for vital records for each state. - United States Vital Records Information Website with links to vital records departments of all states.

Virginia Division of Vital Records This is the website for the official Division of Vital Records of the Virginia Department of Health. Records should be available for birth, marriage, and death certificates from 1853 to the present.

Library of Virginia Guide to Vital Statistics Holdings The Library of Virginia holds primary source materials that supplement official vital records.