Kentucky Records Details and Resources

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Kentucky first attempted statewide vital registration from 1852 to 1862, but some cities and counties again created these records in the late 19th century. The Office of Vital Statistics maintains birth and death records from 1911 forward and marriage and divorce certificates after mid-1958. Options for obtaining record copies are online The Kentucky Historical Society in Frankfort and the Filson Historical Society in Louisville hold microfilm of 19th and early 20th century vital records. Link to searchable indexes at

Until 1809, only the General Assembly could grant divorces; between 1809 and 1849 both the legislature and circuit courts had jurisdiction in these cases. The legislature was prohibited from handling divorces after 1849.

More than half of Kentucky’s counties have suffered some record loss from fires and storms. Alternate sources can’t replace all the information lost, but check for surviving records, resources of parent and neighboring counties, and records created in local, state and federal jurisdictions.

Kentucky has not taken state censuses. Although the 1790, 1800 and 1890 federal enumerations for Kentucky are lost, tax rolls provide important household data from 1782 forward. Besides some published abstracts in libraries, microfilmed tax records are available at the Kentucky Historical Society, Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives, Filson Historical Society, Family History Library (FHL) and Clayton Library in Houston

Other Kentucky-specific records found at Kentucky and other research libraries include these:

  • Draper manuscripts at the State Historical Society of Wisconsin and other major libraries, especially “Series CC, Kentucky Papers,” described in Calendar of the Kentucky Papers of the Draper Collection of Manuscripts, edited by Mabel Clare Weaks (State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1925).
  • Shane manuscripts, other than those in the Draper collection, at the Presbyterian Historical Society in Philadelphia and on microfilm at major libraries; described in The Shane Manuscript Collection: A Genealogical Guide to the Kentucky and Ohio Papers by William K. Hall (Frontier Press, 1990).
  • Index of Economic Material in Documents of the States of the United States: Kentucky, 1792-1904 edited by Adelaide R. Hasse (Carnegie Institution of Washington, 1910). This book can help identify material in state government documents.
  • Kentucky militia records, 1786-1864
  • School censuses from 1888 forward
  • Confederate pensions to veterans or their widows from 1912 forward
  • Records of depositors in Kentucky’s two branches of the Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company, on FHL microfilm


  • The 1787 Census of Virginia by Netti Schreiner-Yantis (Genealogical Books in Print, 1987)


  • A Calendar of the Warrants for Land in Kentucky, Granted for Service in the French and Indian War by Philip Fall Taylor (Clearfield Co., 1995)
  • Index for Old Kentucky Survey’s and Grants; Index for Tellico Surveys and Grants (Kentucky Historical Society, ca. 1975)
  • Kentucky Court of Appeals Deed Books by Michael L. Cook (Cook Publications, 1985)
  • The Kentucky Land Grants: A Systematic Index to All of the Land Grants Recorded in the State Land Office at Frankfort, Kentucky, 1782-1924 by Willard Rouse Jillson (Standard Printing Co., 1925)
  • Old Kentucky Entries and Deeds by Willard Rouse Jillson (1926; reprint, Genealogical Publishing Co., 1999)


  • Atlas of Historical County Boundaries, Kentucky by John H. Long and Gordon DenBoer (Charles Scribner’s Sons, ca. 1995)
  • Atlas of Kentucky by Richard Ulack (University of Kentucky Press, ca. 1998)
  • A Checklist of Kentucky Post Offices by Alan H. Patera and John S. Gallaher (The Depot, ca. 1989)
  • A Guide to Kentucky Place Names by Thomas P. Field (University of Kentucky, 1961)
  • Historic Maps of Kentucky by Thomas D. Clark (University Press of Kentucky, 1979)
  • An Historical Atlas of Kentucky and Her Counties by Wendell H. Rone Sr. (Progress Printing Co., 1965)
  • The Kentucky Encyclopedia by John E. Kleber (University Press of Kentucky, ca. 1992)
  • Kentucky Geographic Names by the US Office of Geographic Research (US Branch of Geographic Names, 1981)
  • Kentucky Place Names by Robert M. Rennick (University Press of Kentucky, 1984)
  • Kentucky Post Offices, 1794-1819 by Thelma M. Murphy (The Author, 1975)
  • Kentucky State Gazetteer and Business Directory for 1895-96 by R.L. Polk and Company (1895; reprint, Ancestral Trails Historical Society, 2000)
  • Kentucky’s Bluegrass: A Survey of the Post Offices by Robert M. Rennick (Depot, 1993)
  • Pioneer Kentucky by Willard Rouse Jillson (State Journal, 1934)


  • Compendium of the War of the Revolution by Frederick H. Dyer (1908; reprint, Morningside Bookshop, 1978)
  • The Corn Stalk Militia of Kentucky, 1792-1800 by Garrett Gleen Clift (Kentucky Historical Society, 1957)
  • Index to Veterans of American Wars from Kentucky (Kentucky Historical Society, 1966)
  • Kentucky Confederate Veteran and Widows Pension Index by Michael L. Cook and Alicia Simpson (Cook & McDowell Publications, ca. 1979)
  • Kentucky Soldiers of the War of 1812 by Minnie S. Wilder (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1969)
  • Kentucky in the War of 1812 by Anderson Chenault Quisenberry (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1969)
  • Kentucky’s Revolutionary War Pensioners, Under Acts 1818-1832 by Kenneth Gene Lindsay (Kenma Publishing Co., ca. 1977)
  • List of the Revolutionary Soldiers of Virginia by H.J. Eckenrode (Virginia State Library, Archives Division, 1912)
  • Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Kentucky, Confederate Kentucky Volunteers, War 1861-1865 by the Kentucky Adjutant General (1915; reprint, Cook and McDowell, 1980)
  • Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Kentucky: Kentucky Volunteers, War With Spain, 1898-1899 by the Kentucky Adjutant General (Globe Print Co., 1908)
  • Revolutionary Soldiers in Kentucky by Anderson Chenault Quisenberry (Southern Book Co., 1959)
  • The Union Regiments of Kentucky by Thomas Speed and Alfred Pirtle (1897; reprint, Morningside House, ca. 1984)


  • Abstract of Early Kentucky Wills and Inventories by J. Estelle Stewart King (Clearfield Co., 1993)
  • The County Courts in Antebellum Kentucky by Robert M. Ireland (University Press of Kentucky, ca. 1972)
  • Federal Courts in the Early Republic: Kentucky 1789-1816 by Mary K. Bonsteel Tachau (Princeton University Press, 1978)
  • Index to Kentucky Wills to 1851, the Testators by Ronald Vern Jackson and David Schaefermeyer (Accelerated Indexing Systems, ca. 1977)
  • Kentucky Pioneer and Court Records by Ednah Wilson McAdams (1929; reprint, Genealogical Publishing Co., 1975)
  • Virgina Supreme Court; District of Kentucky, Order Books, 1783-1792 by Michael L. Cook (Cook Publishing, ca. 1988)


  • Cemetery Records of Kentucky by Robert C. Jobson (the author, 1988)
  • Guide to Public Vital Statistics Records in Kentucky by the Historical Records Survey (Kentucky Historical Records Survey, 1942)
  • Inventory of Kentucky Birth, Marriage, and Death Records 1852-1910 by Jeffrey Michael Duff (Department of Library and Archives, 1980)
  • The Kentucky Gazette: Genealogical and Historical Abstracts by Karen Mauer Green (Gateway Press, 1983)
  • Kentucky Marriage Records, From the Register of the Kentucky Historical Society (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1983)
  • Kentucky Marriages, 1797-1865 by G. Glenn Clift (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1974)
  • Kentucky Obituaries, 1787-1854 by Garrett Glenn Clift (Genealogical Publishing Co., ca. 1977)
  • Kentucky Records: Early Wills and Marriages by Julia Spencer Ardery (1926; reprint, Genealogical Publishing Co., 1965)
  • Wilderness Road Cemeteries in Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia by Robert Foster Johnson (McDowell Publications, 1981)

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From the Family Tree Sourcebook
Also available: the State Research Guide Book, State Research Guides CD and The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy.