Vital records are government-maintained records of births, deaths, marriages, and divorces. However, these records are divided into two different categories, genealogical and non-genealogical vital records, based on how much time has passed since the record was first filed.
In general, records are considered non-genealogical if they were filed within the time frame listed below:
- Births – 80 years
- Marriages, domestic partnerships, and civil unions – 50 years
- Deaths – 40 years
Nearly every state has closed non-Genealogical vital records, which means that they can only be accessed by the person on record and select family members. This is because they are considered legal documents and can be used to prove an individual’s identity and citizenship. However, once the amount of time listed above has passed, they typically become public record and can be accessed by anyone.
Accessing non-genealogical records
Most states allow you to access the non-genealogical records of immediate family members. If you qualify, you can make an official request for a copy from the Vital Records Office in the state where the record was initially filed, using the following information:
- The person on record’s full, legal name
- State, county, or city where the event occurred
- Date of the event
If you are applying for a copy of a birth certificate, you may also need the individual’s parents’ full names, including their mother’s maiden name. You will need to provide a copy of your ID and payment for the processing fees along with your application. Some states also require proof of your relationship to the person on record.