Vital Records

Vital records refer to a set of public records marking important life events: birth, death, marriage, and divorce. These vital records are usually collected at the state level by the state’s vital statistics office or an equivalent office, usually under the department of health or public health.

These records are used by the state to analyze important health statistics, such as birth rate, as well as used for a variety of identification or verification purposes. For example, birth certificates are used for identification purposes when one applies for a passport or for a driver’s license.

Vital records are often also used as genealogical tools, since they contain crucial family history information such as locations and dates of birth, death, and marriage. These records are usually easily obtainable for a small administrative fee by submitting a request to the state vital records office, although the particulars of the fees and requesting process depend on the state.

Access rules and laws also depend on the state, where some states limit access to those named in the record and their immediate family, unless the record is very old; while other states may make informational copies freely accessible to the public.