Vital records are wonderful, but every county and state has their own rules regarding them. There is absolutely no uniformity regarding when official vital records were required. The same goes for land and tax records. I have listed the particulars for the State of Georgia as well as McDuffie, Columbia and Warren Counties.
The first thing you need to know is even though the state of Georgia required official vital records by a certain date does not mean the individual counties didn't keep records before that time. You will see this especially in marriage records.
To obtain records from the Georgia Vitals Office you need to send $10 for each record to:
Georgia Dept of Human Resources
2600 Skyland Drive NE
Atlanta, GA 30319-3640
(404) 679-4701 ext. 4702
Make money order or certified check payable to Vital Records, GA. DHR. You can order online at http://vitalrec.com/ga.html, but it will cost you more.
However, all you will be able to obtain at the state level is a small percentage of what records are actually available.
Birth: Since January 1919 (Note: Georgia law limits access to the person named and the parents shown on the birth certificate, and the authorized legal guardian or agent, grandparent, adult child, or spouse).
Death: Since January 1919
Marriage: June 9, 1952 to 1996
Divorce: Index since June 9, 1952 (Note: If you contact the state office, all they will tell you is whether or not there was a divorce. If you need a copy of the divorce itself, then you must contact the county where the divorce took place)
If you go to the local level, you will find out you can get a lot more information. Wills, tax records, land deeds and guardianship bonds are only kept at the local level. Most McDuffie County records go back to October 1870 with the exception of birth certificates (1920) and death certificates (1927). You can get delayed birth certificate records back to 1870 on those individuals that requested to have one recorded.
For documents prior to October 1870, you will need to go to the Columbia or Warren County courthouses. McDuffie County was formed from these two counties. Columbia County records go back to 1790 (Columbia was formed from Richmond County in 1790) and Warren County records go back to 1793 (Warren was formed from Columbia, Richmond and Wilkes Counties in 1793).
Sleuthing at the courthouse is a lot of fun. Many of the documents are too fragile to be photocopied, so take a digital camera with you. The only time you need to write off to the state vitals office is if you cannot get to a particular courthouse to do the search yourself. If you are looking for older records, then you might need to contact a genealogist in that geographical area and ask them to obtain the record for you (pro bono, trade agreement or a paid assignment).
McDuffie County Clerk
P.O. Box 28
Thomson, GA 30824
Warren County Probate Court
P.O. Box 46
Warrenton, GA 30828-0046
Columbia County Clerk
P.O. Box 58
Appling, GA 30802