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Family History/Genealogy: State or Federal Records

Learn how to research your family tree and how to find resources that are available in EKU libraries.

Vital Records

These records consist of birth, marriage, divorce and death records. They can be found on a local or state level depending on the state and time period. Early records are very sketchy and many of the earliest records are found in township or church records.

Most states have recorded marriages much earlier than other vital records. In Kentucky divorce records before 1850 were required to be approved by the state legislature and can be found in the Kentucky Acts of Legislature, but there is usually also a legal suit on the county level which gives more in-depth information.

Twentieth century Kentucky Birth and death records can be ordered from the Kentucky Office of Vital Statistics.

Early Kentucky vital records are indexed in Inventory of Kentucky Birth, Marriage, and Death Records, comp. by Jeffrey Michael Duff. Other state inventories can be found by using the following search term.

Kentucky Statistics, Vital

To locate vital records materials in library collections the following search terms are suggested customizing the search as necessary.

Registers of birthsetc. Virginia Petersburg
Marriage records Virginia Rappahannock County

Census Records

The US Federal Census has been taken every ten years from 1790 to the present. The amount and type of information changes each census. This website tells what is available on each census.The book A Survey of American Census Schedules; An Explanation and Description of Our Federal Census Enumerations 1790 to 1950 by E. Kay Kirkham also provides this information.

Keep in mind that the census is a snapshot of a person or household at a specific point in time. For example, if grandpa was born in August 1930 he won't appear on the 1930 census, as he wasn't born by the June 1 date that the census depicts.

US census records have a 72 year delay, so the latest available year is 1930. All US census records can be found at (by subscription only or for on campus users).

Locate books with census transcriptions in our collections with the following search term, substituting the location and year of your choice.

Madison County (Ky.) Census, 1900

Indexes to census returns can be located by using a similar search term.

Kentucky Census, 1850 Indexes

Some states also conducted a census and a source for locating those records is State Census Records by Ann S. Lainhart. Other census bibliographies may be located with the following subject term.

United States Census Bibliography Catalogs

Military Records

Service in the military generates volumes of materials that in pre-photocopy days could include original correspondence, marriage records and even pages from family Bibles. These records are now housed at the National Archives, usually as a part of the soldier's pension file. Most military records in the United States can be found at the National Archives.

Service records were generated from the time served in the military and could include medical conditions and physical descriptions. Pension records are excellent sources of family information as well as bounty land records which were generated when a soldier claimed the land he received for military service.

Several books index various types of military records including Genealogical Abstracts of Revolutionary War Pension Files by Virgil White. This four volume set provides brief information on every Revolutionary soldier who filed for a pension. Also included is the information necessary to get copies of the pension file. Indexes for pensions from other wars can be found by substituting the war in the following search terms.

Military pensions United States Revolution, 1775-1783
Military pensions Virginia

Adjutant General's Reports are also available for most American wars up to and including the Civil War. These titles can be found by using these search terms. The name any war can be substituted to customize the search.

United States History Revolution, 1775-1783 Registers
Kentucky History Civil War, 1861-1865 Sources

Pension records for Confederate soldiers are normally located at the state level as those pensions were paid at a state level rather than federal.

Questions? Just ask!

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EKU Special Collections & Archives
Eastern Kentucky University
Special Collections & Archives
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Library 126
Richmond, KY 40475