The Delaware Public Archives provides many valuable resources for researching vital statistics records. Without such information, a person may not be able to locate a birth certificate to obtain a passport or fill in that last missing link in his or her family tree.
Vital Statistics Records
Vital statistics records consist of births, deaths, and marriages. Since 1913, state law has required the recording of these vital records. The vital records of this State which are housed at the Delaware Public Archives are only those which have become public (records). Delaware law indicates that once a birth record reaches 72 years of age and marriage and death records 40 years of age, they then become (open to the) public. The records, created by the Bureau of Vital Statistics, that are open for public use are now available on microfilm at the Delaware Public Archives. Prior to 1913, it was the duty of each county's Recorder of Deeds to record the births, marriages, and deaths of the state. At the end of every three months, the Recorder was to furnish a copy of such records to the Secretary of the State Board of Health. Records voluntarily obtained were the responsibility of the Recorder of Deeds. In 1913, the central Bureau of Vital Statistics was established with the Secretary of the Board of Health serving as its State Registrar. A checklist of other sources for pre-1913 vital statistics is provided at the end of this brochure. A census record, for example, can be used to either establish a period of time for a person's birth, marriage, or death or it may support the assumption that the person left the state.
What information will a vital statistics record of a birth, death, or marriage provide? The forms provided space for the following information but were not consistently filled in by the users. Birth records may contain: child's name, race, sex, date and place of birth; number of children in family; number this child is in family; mother's name, age, race, occupation, and place of nativity; father's name, age, race, occupation, and place of nativity; and witnesses. Marriage records may contain: name, age and nativity of bride, her parents' names and place of nativity; name, age, and nativity of groom, his parents names and place of nativity; number of previous marriages for both the bride and groom; date and place of marriage as well as witnesses and officials present. Death records may contain: name, age place of birth (if known), current residence, cause and place of death, parents' names, spouse's name (if applicable), place of burial and officials or witnesses present. Records are available in a variety of formats. Check with research room staff to determine format for each type of information. When possible, records have been microfilmed for preservation reasons. Every effort is made to ensure that original manuscripts are handled with extreme care so all critical information is preserved for future generations.
Keep in Mind
When researching, always check variant spellings because names were often recorded phonetically (Roads, Rhodes, Rhoades).Oral family histories or family bible records may help get you started. You may find, however, recorded information that conflicts with details given by Uncle Jed. Preservation of historical documents is part of the mission of the Delaware Public Archives. Because ink may accidentally but permanently destroy a record, pens are prohibited in our facility. Pencils must be used by researchers for taking notes and recording references. When researching, cite source as it is found. Recording references will add authenticity to your research and aid in future retrievals.
How to Request a Record
Send your request to us by email from our contact form. Be sure to include specific information about your request.
Researchers can obtain information by writing to the DPA with pertinent information about the individual they are seeking. Staff will do minimal searching of available checklists and indices. If references are found, staff will provide a price quote and reference. Most of our holdings, however, are not indexed and cannot be researched by staff but may be searched by on-site patrons. Requests must be limited to five specific pieces of information per letter. The minimum charge for copies is $10.00 for up to ten pages; beyond ten pages, the charges are in $5.00 increments for every ten pages. We no longer have a shipping and handling fee.
Please visit our hours page for business hours and address.
Photocopies of microfilm made on the self-service reader-printer are $0.50 per page. Manuscript copies are .50 per page and are done by staff as time permits.
Sources to check
- Index cards to vital statistics
- Checklists to vital statistics not filmed (in research room)
- Family Bible records
- Trustees of the poor
- Genealogical abstracts
- Probate records
- Orphan's court
- Census records
- Cemetery records
- Tombstone inscriptions
- Military records
- Court records
- City and state directories
- Tax assessments
- Deed and land records