The General Assembly of Virginia passed a law requiring the official recording of births and deaths in 1853. Every county Commissioner of Revenue registered births and deaths in his district annually, at the same time that personal property subject to taxation was ascertained. The commissioner recorded births and deaths that had occurred prior to December 31 of the preceding year and returned the record to the Clerk of Court by June 1. Information was obtained from heads of family, physicians, surgeons, or coroners.
The Clerk of Court in each locality entered the information supplied by the commissioner into registers and prepared an accompanying alphabetical index. A copy of each register was forwarded to the auditor of public accounts. The law went into effect on July 1, 1853, and continued until 1896, when an economy-conscious legislature repealed the recording provisions.