Kentucky Genealogy and Ancestry Research

This page will provide you with information that will help you in your genealogy and ancestry research for the state of Kentucky. It includes a timeline for the state, when the state began recording vital records, what US and State census records are available, a map of the counties in the state and link to page showing when counties were formed, and links to a variety of genealogy and ancestry resources for the state of Kentucky.

Kentucky History Timeline

This is a short timeline. See links below for more detailed timelines.

1750 – The Cumberland Gap is discovered by Dr. Thomas Walker.

1774 – Harrodsburg is established as the first permanent British settlement.

1774 – Lord Dunmore of Virginia defeats the Shawnee in Dunmore’s War.

1775 – Daniel Boone establishes the town of Boonesborough and widens the Wilderness Trail from Virginia.

1780 – The city of Louisville is established.

1792 – Kentucky becomes the 15th state.

1861 – Kentucky decides to side with Union in the Civil War after trying to remain neutral.

1875 – The first Kentucky Derby is held at Churchill Downs.

1904 to 1908 – The Black Patch Tobacco Wars take place in Kentucky.

1937 – The Ohio River floods causing extensive damage.

Kentucky Vital Records

Although compliance was never complete, birth and death records for Kentucky begin as early as 1852 when statewide registration was first enacted. The requirement continued for only ten years. Some births and deaths were recorded (1874-1879, 1892-1910), but observance remained sporadic.

A few larger cities maintained separate birth and death records prior to 1911, but these too are incomplete. Louisville (1898-1911), Covington (1890-1911), Newport (1890-1911), and Lexington (1906-11) are four cities with registered births in their respective city health departments.

Kentucky’s state legislature granted divorces from 1792 through 1849. Between 1849 and 1958, divorces were usually recorded by the circuit courts in the respective counties.

Birth and death registration was enacted statewide on 1 January 1911 and generally adhered to by 1920.

Kentucky marriage records usually begin about the time of the Kentucky marriage records usually begin about the time of the respective county’s establishment or within a few years of that date. (see Kentucky County Resources for dates). Some counties have marriage records for dates prior to organization. Fayette, Jefferson, and Lincoln counties have marriage records as early as 1785. The respective county clerk has jurisdiction over marriage records. Beginning in 1958 statewide registration was required. Originals are filed in the counties and duplicates are available at the Office of Vital Statistics. The Office of Vital Statistics maintains an index to marriage records from 1958.

Kentucky’s state legislature granted divorces from 1792 through 1849. Between 1849 and 1958, divorces were usually recorded by the circuit courts in the respective counties.

You can find a variety of collection in the links below.

Kentucky Census Records

Federal Population Schedules

  • Indexed’1810, 1820, 1830, 1840, 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930
  • Soundex’1880, 1900, 1910 (Miracode), 1920 has digitized images of the entire U.S. Federal Census Schedules 1790-1940 and created searchable indexes for the images. This collection can be accessed at U.S. Federal Census Collection. Along with the entire U.S. Federal Census collection, has a collection of indexes for Kentucky (Kentucky Census, 1810-1890). Online Census records can also be found at under their Wiki at United States census Online Genealogy Records. FamilySearch  Online resources can be found at Kentucky Census.

Industry and Agriculture Schedules

  • 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880

Mortality Schedules

  •  1850, 1860, 1870, 1880

Slave Schedules

  • 1850, 1860

Union Veterans Schedules

  • 1890 (part)

Kentucky Counties

Kentucky Counties Map
Kentucky Counties Map

At Kentucky County Resources (from Red Book third edition 2004) you’ll find the counties, when they were formed, the parent county(ies), and when Birth, Marriage Death, Land, Probate and Court records began for each county.

Kentucky Genealogy and Ancestry Research Links

Kentucky Family History Research
written by Wendy Bebout Elliott, Ph.D., FUGA, for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources. vital record collections for Kentucky (membership may be required) collections available online for free (membership required but it’s free).

Kentucky Census –

US Census Online Genelaogy Records –

Kentucky Genealogical Society

Kentucky Vital Records – – Library of Files – Kentucky genealogy Data

LDS Genealogy – Kentucky Genealogy

Kentucky Historical Society

Kentucky Genealogy Trails

Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness – State of Kentucky Records Guide

Kentucky GenWeb

AccessGenealogy – Kentucky Genealogy

GenealogySpot – Kentucky

Kentucky State History Timeline Links