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How to Search Vital Records

Knowing how to search vital records can offer a lot of value to most US citizens. Vital records are an important means of identification. Vital records include several kinds of data are evidence of our identities in the United States. These formal and informational reports focus on significant life events, like marriages, divorces, births and deaths. Because state governments manage them, they represent reliable data that may prove more useful than other forms of identification.

In the U.S., the majority of government collected records are public information maintained at the state federal levels. This means that has the ability to lookup public records. As with any government service, however, access is provided under strict conditions that may vary depending on where you live and what you’re looking for. Here are a few pointers on how to search vital records in America.

Vital Birth Records

Birth records are vital records in the United States. A birth certificate records the circumstances under which a child was born. For instance, most include information regarding the identities of the newborn’s parents, the name of the hospital that performed the delivery procedure, and the date and time of birth. Some also provide details that confirm a birth was witnessed by an attending physician, midwife or other healthcare professional.

How to Search Vital RecordsVital Birth Certificate

Birth certificates often serve as corroboration or proof of identity claims later in life. For instance, they’re required to obtain a passport for international travel, get a social security card or seek a driver’s license. They may also be accepted by institutions of higher learning or agencies that offer social benefit programs. Individuals who want to prove their relationships with their children without having to go through ordeals such as paternity testing may also be allowed to use birth certificates in courtroom settings.

In most cases, birth certificates vary depending on where they were issued. Over time, different states may also switch their formatting and layout. In most cases, however, authentic official birth certificates are identifiable because they include raised or multicolored seals and signatures.

Some hospitals issue short-form, or informative, documents that may include the baby’s footprints. While these records, commonly known as certificates of live birth, are easier to obtain, they aren’t the same as the official birth record kept by the state. Also, bear in mind that states typically limit record requests to the individuals the certificates pertain to, their legal guardians or the parents named on the document.

Vital Death Records

Vital records include records of death. Governments issue death certificates to mark that a person is a decedent, or deceased individual. Like birth certificates, these documents typically highlight identifying details about the person in question, such as their place and date of birth, address and full name. What’s more, they tend to feature information about the decedent’s parents, marital status, spouse, veteran status, educational history and cause of death. Most also include complete or partially obscured social security numbers and signatures from the coroners or doctors who confirmed the death.

Another similarity these records share with birth documents is that issuing bodies take great pains to combat forgeries and other scams. For instance, death certificates typically need to bear official stamps to be used for certain activities, such as claiming benefits, executing an estate or cremating the body of a loved one.

Death certificates aren’t always available to just anyone. Many states are moving towards laws that prohibit everyone but relatives, estate executors and public officials from obtaining the official versions of these records. The idea behind such moves is to cut down on criminal activity, such as identity theft and social security benefits fraud. Most locales, however, will issue information-only death records to anyone who asks.

Vital Record SearchVital Marriage Records

Marriage records are vital records. When people get married, join in civil unions or divorce, the state creates marriage records of the events. Even though they tend to contain private information, like the birth dates and addresses of the spouses, anyone can request them from a courthouse.

Marriage records help couples apply for certain benefits and tax breaks. They can also prove critical in divorce cases where people need to establish that they shared community property with someone else. Marriage records are distinct from marriage licenses, which allow you to marry but don’t actually confirm that you have done so. The marriage certificate is only issued after the deal is formally sealed before an official, such as a justice of the peace.

In many jurisdictions, you’ll have to provide your own valid identification to obtain a marriage record, and the court will make a note of the request. As public data, however, marriage documents are usually easy for anyone to view.

How to Get a Copy of Your Vital Records

There are a few different ways to obtain formal vital records, and your best option depends on what you’re looking for. Information like birth and death certificates are typically kept on file by your state’s department of health or bureau of vital records. The major exception to this rule is when people are born in military hospitals overseas or to U.S. citizens in other nations. The U.S. Department of State holds these consular birth records.

You may be able to get a live birth certificate from the hospital where you were born, but remember that these aren’t the same as the official documents required to prove your citizenship or apply for an ID. These records can be harder to obtain when they concern older people who were born at hospitals that no longer exist.

When seeking marriage or divorce information, you’ll typically go to the courthouse or county clerk. Just be sure to go to the officials in the jurisdiction where the marriage occurred since these documents aren’t shared across county borders.

Death records are typically kept on file at the coroner’s office or state health department. The U.S. National Archives also provide information regarding civilians and military members who died overseas.

Why Search Vital Records?

Other reasons to search vital records online include protecting yourself from crimes such as fraud and identity theft. In many cases, people seek these valuable sources of information to learn more about their own histories and genealogies. Finally, vital record search engines make it easier to discover what other people can find out about you, which makes it best practice to verify your vital records are accurate.

Vital Records are Public Records

Vital records are public records, via the FOIA, which means anyone can access this information and it can be found online. Third party public record search engines are also another valuable resource for finding vital records. For instance, you might search vital records to gather more information without having to visit the Department of Public Health, for performing a vital record search. Using an online public records website can offer you both convenience and anonymity. Of course if you want a certified copy of your vital records you will need to contact the relevant state agencies directly.

What Are Vital Records?

Vital records include marriage records, birth records and death records. Vital records are public records of life events collected by the government. These records can be used as as a means to verify a person's identity

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Responses to “Search Vital Records

    1. Ally, you can call the clerk of the courts in the county where you filed for divorce. They can give you the exact date that you can put on your passport. Check out our Free Courthouse Finder to assist you in locating the correct county courthouse

  1. I am looking to obtain a copy of my marriage license when I got married in Las Vegas on 15 th December 98 or 99. I am a UK citizen as is my ex partner and I need a copy of the license in order to obtain a divorce.

  2. I’m looking for the Maine/tobacco court case of years ago. It involved a 1.4 billion dollar settlement.

    1. Alton, our vital record resources are for individuals only. We do not have class action law suit information available with our public record resources

  3. Are the Death Records you offer similar to Death Certificates? I do not need a certified copy of a Death Certificate, but do need to have a Death record with my Great Aunts parents shown on the certificate. Do your Death Records show that information?
    Thank you.

    1. Teresa, our death records and vital records are for online reference only. If you need a copy of a family member’s death certificate you can obtain this by contacting the Department of Public Health in the state that you live in. In each state, this department manages and archives all the vital records for that state independently. You can make your request for a death certificate online or call them directly. If you need further assistance you can let us know what state you live in and we’ll show you how to get a copy of a death certificate for your family members.

Author: SQAdmin
Last Updated: November 17, 2020

Please be aware that the information obtained using searches may not always be accurate and up to date as we do not create, verify, or guarantee the accuracy or the amount of information provided through our service. Data availability is largely dependent on various public sources from which the information is aggregated. is not a consumer reporting agency as defined by Fair Credit Reporting Act and should not be used to determine an individual’s eligibility for personal credit or employment, or to assess risk associated with any business transactions such as tenant screening. By using the services offered through this website you agree to comply with all of the conditions set forth in our terms and privacy disclosure. The information obtained from our searches is not to be used for any unlawful purposes such as stalking or harassing others, or investigating public officials or celebrities. Violators may be subject to civil and criminal litigation and penalties. All searches are subject to our terms and applicable laws.