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District of Columbia: Local History & Genealogy Resource Guide

Vital Records

Based on the date of the vital event (birth, death, marriage, divorce), determine whether you are seeking a state or county level record. If the record you are seeking has been digitized, you can access it online, through the projects described below. If it has not been digitized or if you need a certified copy, contact the appropriate state or county office to view the record.

Timeline of Vital Records

Birth Records
Death Records

1874 to present 

1855 to present

Note: No death records were filed during the Civil War, 1861 to 1865.

Also Note: Birth records become public after 125 years. All other birth records are closed and certified copies may only be obtained if you are legally entitled and present the required personal documentation and fees.

Death records become public after 75 years. All other death records are closed, and certified copies may only be obtained if you are legally entitled and present the required personal documentation and fees.

Certified copies of open and closed records are available at the DC Vital Records Division (DCVRD). Archived copies of public (open) records are available at the DC Office of Public Records and Archives.

Birth Certificates (1874-1916)

Death Certificates (1874-1932)

Marriage Certificates (1870-1966)

Marriage Records

The DC Office of Public Records and Archives has marriage records for 1870-1966

Note: For marriages after 1966, certified copies of marriage licenses can be obtained from the District of Columbia Courts.

Divorce Records

Before 1957: request from Clerk, US District Court for the District of Columbia

1957 to present: Certified copies of divorce decrees for cases filed after 1957 for the District of Columbia can be obtained from the District of Columbia Courts.

Online Resources for Vital Records

The subscription resources marked with a padlock are available to researchers on-site at the Library of Congress. If you are unable to visit the Library, you may be able to access these resources through your local public or academic library.

Using Ancestry Library Edition for District of Columbia

Begin your search through Ancestry's vast collections, by viewing the list designated as District of Columbia records External.

Using FamilySearch for District of Columbia

FamilySearch provides useful state and county wikis that make excellent starting points for research. The District of Columbia Wiki External includes information about the District itself as well as the surrounding area.

FamilySearch has digitized many of its microfilms containing county courthouse records including birth, death, and marriage. Not all records have been indexed yet, so search engine results may NOT show you the full range of FamilySearch data. You must browse the FamilySearch catalog External listings to view the full set of records available. The vast amount of accessible original records is well worth your time to explore.

There is no fee to use FamilySearch, but you must create a free, personal account to access the databases and digital records.

Obtaining Copies of Vital Records

Published Vital Records

Below are selected print publications for statewide vital records. The following titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content are included when available.

To locate additional published materials, go to the Print Resources section of this guide for search tips on locating published county courthouse records, abstracts, and indexes that may aide you in locating original records at the county level.