Do you have ancestors that lived in the District of Columbia? Here are some suggestions on getting started with local DC records.
Birth, Marriage, and Death Announcements
DC Public Library:
Baltimore Sun 1837-1985
The Washington Post 1877-1994
Washington Times 1990-Present
You may search in any of the 25 DC Library Branches or online at home, but you must have a DC Library card.
Washington Daily Globe 1837-1855
The Washington Post 1904-1924
Requires paid subscription.
Birth and Death
District of Columbia Department of Health Vital Records Division:
Birth and Death Certificates August 1874 to Present
Birth certificate is public 100+ years after birth: application $23
Death certificate is public 50+ years after death: application $18
You must have an exact date, they do not do searches and do not allow researchers access to the records. Use the Family Search index (below) to find your ancestors before you order. DC Department of Heath Vital Records does not do online requests, but you can order DC birth and death records (if they are public) through www.vitalchek.com. Here are the FAQ & Guidelines.
Marriage and Divorce
DC Superior Court Marriage Bureau
Marriage Records 1811-1980
Divorce Records September 16, 1956-Present
You may request by mail or in person with a money order $10 made out to “Clerk, D.C. Superior Court.” Include full names, maiden names, and the date of marriage/divorce and mail to:
DC Superior Court Marriage Bureau
H. Carl Moultrie I. Courthouse
500 Indiana Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
I highly recommend calling the court first before mailing in your request: (202) 879-4840
U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia:
Divorce Records prior to September 16, 1956
Call first! (202) 354-3050
They may ask you send over a fax with all the known details and they will email you a response, either a copy of the divorce record or the location it is held in the National Archives.
Founded in 1807 and contains many famous Washingtonians, including J. Edgar Hoover, John Philip Sousa, and Elbridge Gerry. Walking tour guides and an internment index are available on their website. More information available at the National Park Service.
Oak Hill Cemetery
One of DC’s best kept secrets and by far the most beautiful cemetery I have ever been too. Local Georgetown residents often take walks through the gardens. Founded in 1849, the cemetery’s history is mostly of the 19th century with an emphasis on the Civil War. Take a walk through and do a quick google search of any of the headstone names, like Paul J. Pelz or Philip Barton Key and you’ll find some wonderful historical gems! An index of internments is available on their website.
Holy Rood Cemetery (no official website)
Established in 1832 and contains about 7,000 graves, including 1,000 free and enslaved African Americans. This historical cemetery has been neglected for years by it’s current owner, Georgetown University and very few headstones remain. A list of interments can be found at the Georgetown University Special Collections Research Center, open M-F 9am-5pm.
For a full list of cemeteries located in DC, try using the findagrave.com directory here.
There are tons of other resources for researching ancestors in DC. Ancestry.com has a list of DC specific sources and the Family Search library has lots of interesting books and microfilm available for ordering, such as District of Columbia free Negro registers, 1821-1861 and Who’s who in the nation’s capital.