This is an overview of what exists for Minnesota birth, death, and marriage records and ways to access them. This is not a 100% comprehensive finding aid, but it should lead you to more records.
Birth & Death Records
Birth and death records were generally created at the county level beginning in 1870 or later if the county was not in existence in 1870. Most early recordings were a one line entry across two pages in a registration volume and the information is not extensive. In some localities these were also recorded at the township level until the mid 1950s. Many of the township records books can be found at the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS). For many years, the cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis also registered births and deaths. Today these are found with their respective counties. Beginning in 1900 for birth records, and in 1908 for death records, the event was also reported to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). You may find differences in all versions in the years there were multiple reportings.
For death records before 1908, contact the county in which the person died. Some are also at the Family History Library and the Minnesota Historical Society. MHS has microfilms of the MDH death record cards for 1900-1907. The microfilmed records may be viewed on-site at MHS,
Even though there are early registrations of births and deaths in Minnesota, not all events were registered. It was well into the 20th century before the registrations were “complete.” In the 1940s the state health department was still urging complete compliance with the registration laws. You may be among the fortunate researchers who find that a delayed birth certificate was created and there might be supporting documentation. The person
filing a delayed birth certificate and who no longer lived in Minnesota, may have applied for the certificate in the place of residence at the time of the application.
By law, the birth and death records in Minnesota are public records. This does not always mean that researchers have “hands-on” access to the original records. The record books may be in deteriorating condition, they may contain non-public information such as illegitimate births, or the office which holds the records may not have room to let researchers check the record themselves. And, yes, in some cases, the record keeper simply does not wish to have researchers on-site.
The MDH no longer accepts walk-in vital record requests, but the county registrars do. The MDH website has information on this. The counties have direct access to the electronic database MDH has created for many of the twentieth century records for all counties. Some of the registrars already have computers that may be used by customers to check for records. The electronic format is an excellent way to find the initial information, but this does not contain all the original details. It is important to request a photocopy of the actual certificate from the MDH, from the county where the event occurred, or from the microfilmed records at MHS.
Marriage records were generally created from the time a county officially began and the marriage records generally remain in the county. The majority of Minnesota marriage records do not contain large amounts of genealogically significant information. Marriage records are generally more open to “hands-on” research. In most counties, the researcher can hand copy the data. Marriage records ion microfilm for some counties are at MHS and at the FHL.
Divorce records for Minnesota are part of the District Court’s civil court records at the county level. Some older county civil court records are found at the Minnesota Historical Society.
Many Minnesota vital records are also available through the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Check under both the county and the state categories. As mentioned earlier, for the cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, births and deaths were also filed at the city level and the FHL has microfilmed these up to the 19teens, but some indexes are for later years.
Vital records indexes online
Ancestry.com Minnesota vital record indexes to records filed at the state level
Birth Index 1935-2002
Death Index 1908-2002
Marriage Index 1958-2001
Divorce Index 1970-1995
Minnesota Historical Society www.mnhs.org; vital records indexes to state level registrations. Be sure to read the FAQs for each of these indexes as they are extremely helpful.
Birth Index 1900-1934
Death Index 1904-2001
MOMS Minnesota Official Marriage System www.mncounty.com.Free online index to county marriage records. Some counties are more complete than others at this time.
Minnesota Department of Health http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/chs/osr/index.html
© 2011 – 2014, Paula Stuart-Warren. All rights reserved.
One thought on “Minnesota Vital Records”
Hello Paula! I need some information as to where to start finding out who my mother’s father was. Supposedly, she was born in a home for unwed mothers in 1935 in Minnesota. My grandmother never told anyone who was the father of her baby girl before she died. As I understand it, the records of illegitimate births are sealed. Would my grandmother even had to name the father of the child on the birth certificate? Any help or advice you can give us as to where to start looking for information. Thank you!