VERMONT VITAL REGISTRY SYSTEM
1779: Town clerks were directed to record all marriages, births and deaths in their towns
1857: System is started with annual reporting to the State by town clerks
1898: Divorces added to the Registry System
1902: Semi-annual reporting to the State; the State Board of Health starts keeping statistics
1908: Monthly reporting to the State for births, deaths and marriages only
1908: Card system started by Secretary of State's Office to index vital events
1919: Towns required to make copies of all of their vital records and transmit copies to the State. Includes transcribing gravestones for all individuals who passed away prior to 1870
1921: Requirement to transcribe vital events reintroduced after several towns failed to comply with 1919 law
1980: Act to Modernize and Improve Laws Relating to Vital Records is passed. Vital records retained by the Secretary of State are transferred to the Division of Public Records but Department of Health administers the Vital Registry System
2008: Division of Public Records merges with the Vermont State Archives and vital records through 2005 are managed by the Vermont State Archives and Records Division
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 (see PRA-242). 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 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 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 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 Secretary of State's Office 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 selectboards were responsible for paying transcribers five (5) cents per card and transmitting all cards to the Secretary of State's Office by January 1, 1920.
The requirement to transcribe records and transmit the copies to the Secretary of State's Office was reintroduced again in 1921 by Act No. 89. Towns who had failed to transcribe their records and transmit them to the Secretary of State's Office by July 1, 1921 risked having their records "procured" by 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 Secretary of State's Office were removed and divided between the Vermont Department of Health and Vermont Department of Public Records in the late 1970s.
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 Secretary of State's Office.
Please direct all reference questions or research inquiries to:
- VSARA Reference Room Staff
- EMAIL: (For vital records requests use: )
- PHONE: 802-828-2308
This page was last updated on: 2011-05-06.