Washington Vital Records

Vital records, as their name suggests, are connected with central life events: birth, marriage, and death. Maintained by civil authorities, they are prime sources of genealogical information; but, unfortunately, official vital records are available only for relatively recent periods. These records, despite their recent creation in the United States, are critically important in genealogical research, often supplying details on family members well back into the nineteenth century. The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy, by Loretto Szucs and Sandra Luebking.

Washington State Department of Health
Center for Health Statistics
P.O. Box 9709
Olympia, WA 98507-9709
(360) 236-4300  Info

Birth Records

In 1891 the state legislature made it the duty of all coroners, physicians and midwives to report all births and deaths under their supervision. Information was collected on birth returns, which was then submitted to and recorded by County Auditors in birth registers. With few exceptions, births before 1891 were not recorded, and even after 1891, many births went unrecorded. Birth registers entries may include name of child, birth date, birthplace, race, parents’ names and places of birth.

Beginning on July 1, 1907, the State took over responsibility for collecting birth records. Post-1907 vital records in the state Center for Health Statistics (Department of Health) in Olympia are not open to the public for research. The index to birth certificates held by the Department of Health, Center for Health Statistics, will include father’s name, mother’s name, including her maiden name, child’s name (sometimes), their gender, race, birth date, county of birth, and birth certificate number.

Death Records

In 1891 the state legislature made it the duty of all coroners, physicians and midwives to report all births and deaths under their supervision. Information was collected on death returns, which was then submitted to and recorded by County Auditors in death registers. With few exceptions, deaths before 1891 were not recorded, and even after 1891, many deaths went unrecorded. Information found in the death register may include name, date, location and cause of death, place of birth, and parents’ names and places of birth.

Beginning on July 1, 1907, the State took over responsibility for collecting death records. Post-1907 vital records in the state Center for Health Statistics (Department of Health) in Olympia are not open to the public for research.

Washington Vital Records 1
Washington Marriage Records

In 1866, the Legislative Assembly of Washington Territory passed the Act to Regulate Marriages. Although there were legal marriage requirements prior to this year, there were no official forms or record keeping to document that the laws were upheld. Marriage records were maintained at the County level until 1968, when the state took over collecting marriage records. Over time there have been various steps in the marriage process and these have generated a variety of forms/certificates. These include:

Washington Divorce Records

There is no electronic statewide index of divorce records before 1969. The statewide divorce index for 1968 is on microfiche and can be accessed at the Washington State Archives, Olympia or the Washington State Library.

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