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The retention of vital statistics was done in a fairly haphazard fashion, if at all, through the middle of the 19th century. The General Assembly, aware of the problem, initially placed the responsibility for gathering marriage records on preachers, the Mayor of Wilmington and the recording clerks of any religious societies that performed marriages.1 This system proved to be neither comprehensive nor efficient.
In 1881, the Legislature extended the scope of the statistics gathering and strengthened its governing bureaucracy. Bank reporting forms/certificates for recording marriages were to be provided by the Secretary of State; similar birth and death forms were to be provided by the Recorder of Deeds. Physicians and midwives were charged with reporting births, clergymen were charged with reporting marriages, and deaths were to be reported by physicians, or in their absence, the coroner or church sexton. All of these “reporters” were required to register with Recorder of Deeds.2
Birth certificates were required to include day, month and year of birth; sex and race of the child; and the names of the mother and father. Marriage certificates were required to include the names of bride and groom; ages; race; nationalities; residences; occupations; names and birthplaces of parents ; date of marriage; number of previous marriages; name of officiant; date of certificate; and date of registration. Death Certificates were to include name; age; race; nationality; length of residence in U.S.; place of nationalities of parents; cause of death and complications; date of death; date of certificate; and date of registration.3
The Secretary of State was to procure three ledger books for each county’s Recorder of Deeds – one for recording births and one for recording deaths. The aforementioned completed forms were to be forwarded to the Recorder’s office and the information entered in these volumes. (Note: In Wilmington, the notifications were to be made to the Register of Births, Deaths and Marriages, who then forwarded the information to the New Castle Recorder of Deeds.) Then, on a quarterly basis, a copy of the said record was to be forwarded to the State Board of Health.4
By 1901, the governing emphasis of this process had shifted form the Recorder of Deeds to the State Board of Health. Reporting forms were now provided solely by them, and all returns were to be made to them. The Board of Health was to divide the State into registration districts and appoint a four-year term registrar for each. These registrars assumed the previous duties of the Recorders of Deeds in recording and transferring the information.5
Shortly after, in 1913, the Bureau of Vital Statistics was created and an agency of the State Board of Health, with the Secretary designated as the Registrar of Vital Statistics. An accompanying appropriation ensured state-wide jurisdiction over the gathering of all vital statistics information.6
The Bureau’s scope was enlarged twice in later years. In 1935, they began recording divorces and annulments,7 and in 1943, adoptions.8

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1 1852 Del. Code, ch. 74

2 16 D.L., ch. 381

3 Ibid

4 Ibid

5 25 D.L., ch. 65

6 27 D.L., ch. 84

7 40 D.L., ch. 210

8 44 D.L., ch. 69
jf/January 27, 1988; January 28, 1988; March 14, 1988

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