VSARA > Learn > State Vital Records Registry
Since 1779, town clerks have been mandated to record all births, deaths, and marriages that occurred in their towns; however, vital events were not recorded at the state level until 1857.
Act No. 63 of 1856 created the Vermont Vital Registry System, which required town clerks to compile lists of the vital events that occurred in their respective towns during the course of a year starting in 1857.
Lists of town vital events were initially submitted to the Vermont Secretary of State on an annual basis and bound by year and town. To understand what was initially recorded for births, marriages, and deaths, see Instructions concerning Registrations in the State of Vermont that were issued by Secretary of State Benjamin W. Dean in 1859.
In 1896, the Vermont legislature passed Act No. 56, which required county clerks to submit the number of divorces granted, and their cause, to the State Board of Health for statistical purposes only. Returns of divorces were eventually added to the State Vital Registry by Act No. 59 of 1898.
Act No. 114 of 1902 required town clerks to transmit returns of births, marriages, and deaths to the State Board of Health semi-annually (in March and September). The State Board of Health was charged with preparing and publishing tables (vital statistics) and transmitting the returns from the town clerks to the Office of the Secretary of State for “indexing, binding and preservation.”
In 1904, the Vermont legislature passed Act No. 140: An Act Related to the Registration of Births, Marriages, Divorces, and Deaths. Through this act, town clerks were responsible for transmitting returns of births, marriages, and deaths to the State Board of Health every six months (in January and June). Relative to divorces, county clerks were responsible for submitting returns of divorces to the State Board of Health every six months. Returns were submitted to the Office of the Secretary of State.
Four years later, in 1908, Act 78 was passed. This legislative act required all town clerks to submit certified copies of all births, marriages and deaths to the State Board of Health on a monthly basis. These returns continued to be transmitted to the Office of the Secretary of State for “indexing, binding and preservation.”
Through Resolution No. 425 of 1908, the Secretary of State was authorized to create a card index for any records in the custody of the Secretary. This included the annual lists of vital events had been submitted to the Secretary by town clerks and the vital returns. Unfortunately, relative to the Vital Registry, not all towns complied with the above laws and the registry within the Office of the Secretary of State was considered incomplete.
As a result, in 1919, the Vermont Legislature passed Act No. 92, which required all town clerks to transcribe, in full, records of births, marriages, and deaths in the possession of the town and churches. In addition, inscriptions of gravestones for all individuals who died prior to 1870 needed to be transcribed as well. The town select boards were responsible for paying transcribers five (5) cents per card and transmitting all cards to the Office of the Secretary of State by January 1, 1920.
The requirement to transcribe records and transmit the copies to the Office of the Secretary of State was reintroduced again in 1921 by Act No. 89. Towns who had failed to transcribe their records and transmit them to the Office of the Secretary of State by July 1, 1921 risked having their records “procured” by the Office of the Secretary of State at the expense of the town. Legislative acts concerning amendments to vital records (i.e. to correct errors in spelling or add additional information) did not get introduced until the late 1930s.
Several changes to the forms, filing and transmittal requirements between town and county clerks and the State Board of Health and, later, Department of Health were enacted between the 1930s and 1980. In 1980, Act 142 (An Act to Modernize and Improve Laws Relating to Vital Records) was passed. Subsequent to this act, the vital records within the Office of the Secretary of State were physically removed and divided between the Vermont Department of Health and former Department of Public Records, which operated the State Records Center.
This arrangement remained in place until July 1, 2008 when the now Division of Public Records (within the Department of Buildings and General Services) merged with the Vermont State Archives to create the Vermont State Archives and Records Administration, which is a division of the Office of the Secretary of State. At that time, all vital records in the state registry dating from 1909 and later stored in the State Records Center returned under the legal control of the Vermont Department of Health and recording volumes of vital events reported to the Secretary of State between the years 1857 and 1968 were accessioned into the Vermont State Archives.
Pursuant to Act 46 of 2017 and effective July 1, 2019, all birth and death records dating January 1, 1909 and later are only available through the Department of Heath's Statewide Registry System. Original source records for these events in the offices of the town clerks and the state registry are available for informational research purposes; however, the Statewide Registry System is the official system of record and certified and noncertified copies of birth and death records can only be issued through this system.
The Department of Health, all town clerks and the Vermont State Archives and Records Administration are authorized by law to issue certified and noncertified copies from the Department of Heath's Statewide Registry System.
Vermont State Archives & Records Administration
Tanya Marshall, State Archivist & Director
1078 Route 2, Middlesex
Montpelier, VT 05633-7701
Phone & Hours
Main Line: 802-828-3700
Office Hours: 7:45 AM to 4:30 PM, M-F
Reference Room: 9 AM to 4 PM, M-F