On the 1860 federal population census, what would become Colorado is split among four territories: Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico and Utah. The 1870 and 1880 censuses and a special 1885 federal census, all for Colorado Territory, are available. They include population, agricultural, manufacturing and mortality schedules. Social Statistics Schedules survived for 1870, and the seven supplemental schedules for Defective, Dependent and Delinquent Classes (“DDD” schedules) are available for 1880. After statehood, available federal censuses are 1900, 1910, 1920 and 1930. The 1890 census, including the Union Veterans’ and Widows schedule, was destroyed. Colorado didn’t take state censuses.
Local vital-record keeping was mandated in 1876. Early records may be available at county courthouses or the Colorado Department of Health (CDH), Vital Records Section. Statewide registration began in 1907 and was generally complied with by the 1920s; request those records from CDH.
Marriage records are available from county courthouses, though many early ones have been turned over to the State Archives. CDH has statewide marriage indexes for 1900 to 1939 and 1975 to the present. CDH also has copies of marriage records for 20 of Colorado’s 63 counties. CDH has statewide divorce indexes for the years 1900-1939 and 1968 to the present. Divorce records are available only from the county clerk where the divorce took place.
Court records are held by county and district courts. Probate records and wills are with the county clerk in each county except Denver, which has a separate probate court. Land records are in the office of the county recorder. The Family History Library (FHL) has a few microfilmed Colorado vital, probate, land and court records. Naturalization records for most counties are at the state archives.
Many local cemetery and church records or abstracts have been published or posted online. But in most cases, you’ll need to contact the cemetery. Published abstracts of or indexes to other records and sources, as well as church or business histories, may be in local libraries, museums, and historical societies. One helpful guide is Kay R. Merrill’s Colorado Cemetery Directory (Colorado Council of Genealogical Societies, 1985).
The Colorado Historical Society’s collection of microfilmed newspapers is the most complete available. The society also has newspaper indexes and clipping files, along with extensive historical and genealogical materials.
The Western History/Genealogy Department at the Denver Public Library is a major national genealogical repository. Among the many resources are obituary indexes, Denver naturalization records (1877-1952), and the Colorado Index to Marriages and Divorces, 1900-1939 and 1975-present. The library offers online access to indexes to many records at http://history.denverlibrary.org/research/exclusive.html.
The Colorado State Archives houses court records from most counties. That includes naturalization records, probate cases, and civil and criminal cases. Often, indexes for civil and criminal case files will still be at the county courthouse, even though the case files themselves have been transferred to the Archives. The Archives has extensive collections of school records. You can search an index of some of its birth, death, divorce and other records in the Colorado Historical Records Index http://www.colorado.gov/dpa/doit/archives/hrd.
The Western Historical Collection in the Norlin Library at the University of Colorado at Boulder has an extensive map collection. The Colorado Genealogical Society (CGS) http://www.cogensoc.us has published many early Colorado county records in its journal, The Colorado Genealogist. The Colorado GenWeb Project http://cogenweb.com has an array of volunteer projects that provide information, indexes, transcriptions and actual record copies for Colorado research. It’s always important to seek original records. For example, you can find the Denver Public Library’s Reformatory Prisoner’s Record Index (1887-1939) online. But to find out if the story had a happy ending for your ancestor, you’ll have to use the original records collection at the State Archives: Parole Record With Index (1898-1951).
- Colorado and its People: A Narrative and Topical History of the Centennial State compiled by LeRoy R. Hafen (Lewis Historical Publishing Co., 1948)
- Naturalization Records: Index to US District Court—Denver, Colorado compiled by Patricia Crayne-Trudell, Joan Thomas and the US District Court (Foothills Genealogical Society of Colorado, 1997)
- Mercedes Reales: Hispanic Land Grants of the Upper Rio Grande Region by Victor Westphall (University of New Mexico Press, 1983)
- Record of Private Land Claims Adjudicated by the US Surveyor General, 1855-1890 by the New Mexico (Territory) Surveyor General’s Office (University of New Mexico Library, 1955-1957)
- Spanish and Mexican Land Grants in New Mexico and Colorado edited by John R. Van Ness and Christine M. Van Ness (Sunflower University Press, 1980)
- Spanish & Mexican Records of the American Southwest: A Bibliographical Guide to Archive and Manuscript Sources by Henry Putney Beers (University of Arizona Press, 1979)
- Vigil’s Index, 1681-1846 by Donaciano Vigil (University of New Mexico Library, 1955-1957)
- Colorado Ghost Towns and Mining Camps by Sandra Dallas; photographs by Kendal Atchison (University of Oklahoma Press, 1985)
- Colorado Place Names: Communities, Counties, Parks, Passes with Historical Lore and Fact Plus a Pronunciation Guide by George R. Eichler (Johnson Publishing, 1980)
- Crofutt’s Grip-Sack Guide of Colorado by George A. Crofutt (Cubar Associates, 1966)
- A Gazetteer of Colorado by Henry Gannett (Government Print Office, 1906)
- Colorado Volunteers in New Mexico, 1862 edited by Richard Harwell (R.R. Donnelley, 1962)
- Confederate Soldiers Buried in Colorado by Sherman Lee Pompey (Historical and Genealogical Publishing, 1995)
- Just Outside of Manila: Letters from Members of the First Colorado Regiment in the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars edited by Frank Harper (Colorado Historical Society, 1991)
- Abstract of Early Probate Records by Ella Ruland MacDougall (19-?)
- Colorado Cemetery Directory edited by Kay R. Merrill (Colorado Council of Genealogical Societies, 1985)
- Colorado Cemetery Inscriptions compiled by Lela O. McQueary (K.R. Merrill, 1985)
- From the Grave: A Roadside Guide to Colorado’s Pioneer Cemeteries by Linda Wommack (Caxton Press, 1998)
- Guide to Vital Statistics Records in Colorado by the Historical Records Survey and the US Works Progress Administration (The Survey, 1942)
- Marriages of Arapahoe County, Colorado, 1859-1901: Including Territory that Became Adams, Denver and Other Counties compiled by the Arapahoe County Marriage Committee (Colorado Genealogical Society, 1986)
- Statewide Marriage Index, 1900-1939, 1975-1992 by the Colorado Department of Health (Colorado Department of Health, 1975-1992)