In order to find territorial divorce records, researchers need to know an approximate date or time frame in which the divorce occurred as well as where the parties were residing at the time of the divorce. As very few of these records are name-indexed, researchers may find their research to be very time-consuming if they do not have this information.
The following information about how the courts worked in the territorial period may assist researchers in finding divorce cases. Between 1852 and 1887, two separate courts had concurrent jurisdiction over divorce proceedings, the county Probate Court (for each individual county) and the District Court (covering multiple counties). Between 1852 and June 1878 there were no residency requirements, so individuals seeking a divorce in Utah technically had the rights to file anywhere within the territory. Most Utahns filed locally-in their county probate court or in the area district court-for convenience, but there was certainly nothing requiring them to do so.
In 1878, the Utah Legislature instituted a residency requirement for divorces which became effective after June 1878. In short, this meant that persons filing for divorce had to file in the County Probate Court (through 1887 only) or the District Court with jurisdiction over their place of residence. In 1887, the Federal government removed the Probate Courts' jurisdiction over divorce cases, and so between 1887 and 1896 all divorces were filed in the District Court only.
District Courts in the territorial period had jurisdiction over several counties. The boundaries changed frequently, so a researcher wishing to see which district court had jurisdiction over a county for a specific period of time should consult the Historical Jurisdiction Chart.
Not all of the records documenting territorial divorce proceedings have survived and very few are name-indexed. A list of records series obtainable through the Utah State Archives follows arranged by geographic area. Those that are highlighted have series inventories with more complete descriptions of the records. Researchers may want to consult multiple series for the same agency when researching divorces: while case files series generally provide the largest amount of information regarding divorce proceedings, occasionally files do not survive when minute book entries do or vice-versa. Also different record types document different aspects of the case. The linked inventories will give the researcher more information about the documentation provided by each individual series.
|First District Court|
|Southern Division criminal case files, 1875-1895.||Series 1521|
|Minute books, 1851-1858, 1865-1873, 1890-1896.||Series 10035|
|Second District Court|
|Minute books, 1852-1865, 1880-1890.||Series 5319|
|Civil case indexes, 1878-1916.||Series 21933|
|Third District Court|
|Case files, 1852-1896. [case files prior to 1871 are not name-indexed]||Series 9802|
|Case files index, 1871-1896. [a partial index to series 9802]||Series 3243|
|Civil case minutes, 1874-1875.||Series 1625|
|Territorial minute books, 1858-1896.||Series 1649|
|Civil and criminal registers of actions, 1870-1871.||Series 20011|
|Civil registers of actions, 1871-1896.||Series 22610|
|Fourth District Court|
|Cache County minute book, 1894-1895.||Series 3588|
|Civil and criminal registers of actions, 1878-1896.||Series 17825|
|Judgment record books, 1891-1895.||Series 84165|
|Northern Division civil and criminal case files, 1878-1891.||Series 1529|
|Minute books, 1878-1896.||Series 5062|
Not including those counties that were not formed until after 1887 or those counties for which the Archives has no holdings.
|Beaver County. Probate Court|
|Probate case files, 1876-1894||Series 26592|
|Record books, 1870-1885.||Series 14893|
|Box Elder County. Probate Court|
|Divorce records, 1868-1887.||Series 26104|
|Record books, 1856-1877.||Series 82970|
|Cache County. Probate Court|
|Civil case files, 1878-1884. | online index||Series 23726|
|Probate record books, 1876-1906.*||Series 767|
|Carson County. Probate Court|
|Records, 1855-1862.||Series 19802|
|Cedar County. Probate Court|
|Minutes, 1859-1962||Series 17493|
|Davis County. Probate Court|
|Divorce case files, 1875-1886. | online index||Series 4700|
|Divorce registers of actions, 1877, 1880. | online index||Series 4731|
|Divorce minute book, 1877.||Series 23694|
|Minute books, 1854-1872.||Series 25012|
|Garfield County. Probate Court|
|Divorce case record book, 1883-1889.||Series 20937|
|Iron County. Probate Court|
|Minutes, 1852-1896.||Series 17477|
|Juab County. Probate Court|
|Minutes, 1852-1859.||Series 13096|
|Millard County (Utah). Probate Court|
|Minutes, 1854-1862.||Series 26151|
|Salt Lake County. Probate Court|
|Civil and criminal case files, 1852-1887. | online index||Series 373|
|Civil and criminal case minute books, 1860-1887.||Series 3939|
|Civil and criminal case docket books, 1852-1887.||Series 3944|
|Sanpete County. Probate Court|
|Divorces, 1873-1887.||Series 14697|
|Minutes, 1852-1896.||Series 17693|
|Record books, 1855 - 1896||Series 26609|
|Summit County (Utah). Probate Court|
|Record books, 1882-1913.||Series 27442|
|Tooele County. Probate Court|
|Record books, 1859-1892.||Series 1422|
|Minute books, 1859-1888.||Series 14650|
|Utah County (Utah). Probate Court|
|Divorce case files, 1863-1888.||Series 20941|
|Washington County. Probate Court|
|Civil and criminal record books, 1856-1886.||Series 3168|
|Divorce case files, 1870-||Series 26638|
|Weber County. Probate Court|
|Civil and criminal case files, 1852-1887. | online index||Series 1593|
|Civil and criminal registers of action, 1868-1887. | online index||Series 83901|
*Creating agency is actually 1st District Court: Cache County. The earliest volumes in this series were generated by the Probate Court and include records of divorce actions. See description of records for more information.
Divorces must be filed in the county in which at least one of the parties reside at the time the complaint is filed.
Records of divorces filed since 1896 in many District Courts are still accessed directly through those district courts, though some have made arrangements to store records older than 50 years with the Archives. Check the State District Courts Guide for information on civil case records at the State Archives.
Beaver | Box Elder | Cache | Carbon | Daggett | Davis | Duchesne | Emery | Garfield | Grand | Iron | Juab | Kane | Millard | Morgan | Piute | Rich | Salt Lake | San Juan | Sanpete | Sevier | Summit | Tooele | Uintah | Utah | Wasatch | Washington | Wayne | Weber
Researchers will need to know the names of the parties and the approximate date of divorce. These records are available onsite at the Research Center for the researcher's visit. For information as to the types of records available to the researcher for Third District Court: Salt Lake County divorce cases, the following series inventories may contain more details.
|Third District Court: Salt Lake County|
|Civil case indexes, 1896-1968.||Series 6071|
|Civil case index, 1969.||Series 14260|
|Civil case files, 1896-1969.||Series 1622|
For certified copies of divorce decrees and other pleadings, 1970 to present, researchers should contact the District Court where the case was filed. See the Utah Courts Directory.
For certified copies of marriage and divorce certificates statewide (short form only), 1978 to present, researchers may contact:
Bureau of Vital Records
Utah Department of Health
288 North 1460 West
Salt Lake City, UT 84114-2855
Tel. (801) 538-6105 (recorded message)