Sunday, October 14, 2007

Alternative Birth Records

The earliest birth records in Kentucky date from 1852, when the Sutton Law requested that each county keep a list of these Vital Statistics. One copy of the list was to remain in the county and the original copy was to be sent to Frankfort.

Compliance with the law varied from county to county as recording this information added to the burden of work for the county official, but most counties have at least a few birth records from 1852 to1859 or 1860. The law was rescinded during the Civil War and re-instated in the 1870’s.

From the 1870’s forward, there are a few years of records, mainly in mid-1870s and in the 1890s. Larger libraries may have these early birth records on microfilm and many of them have been published. A statewide registration of birth records was instituted in 1911.

If you have had no luck with the early birth records, there are other places to check for the needed information.

1. Family Bible record. Note whether the color of ink is different for the different entries. If it is, most likely the entries were made at different times, indicating more accurate recordings. If the ink is all the same color and the entries are in the same handwriting, it is likely the information was recorded at one time, possibly when the Bible was first acquired. Time dims our memories and mistakes are more likely to be made.

2. Tombstone records. As the information was given by someone other than the person in question and was usually given in a time of stress, the dates could be incorrect, but they should be close.

3. Indenture of Apprenticeship. If your ancestor was "bound out" as an apprentice to learn a trade, check the Indentures of Apprenticeship books to see if his birth date or age is given. This same information should be found in the county court minutes.

4. Death certificate. In 1911, Kentucky required death certificates. As in tombstone records, the dates may be off, but they should be close.

5. School census records. Most western Kentucky counties should have school census records dating from the 1890s on past 1930 or so. These records list the name of the child, parent or guardian responsible for the child and his age and/or birthdate. The school census records are usually located in the county clerk’s office or the county board of education. Lyon County’s school census records are earlier than other counties with those records beginning in 1885.

6. Guardianship records (bond). If a guardian was appointed for your ancestor, it was not uncommon to list his/her birthdate on bond. These guardianship records are found in books titled Guardian Bonds, located in the county clerk’s office.

7. Obituary. A newspaper obituary will often give the birthdate, as reported by a family member. Again, this is not first-hand information so it may be incorrect.

8. Census. The 1900 census lists the month and year of birth of each person listed.

If none of these records helps in determining the birthdate of your ancestor, you may have to just resign yourself to using an approximate date as taken from pre-1900 census records. Sometimes, when you least expect it, a clue will arise and open the door to new information.

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