Some vital records offices exist at the state, county, and city levels. They are government agencies responsible for maintaining the records of births, marriages, divorces, and deaths that occur in that particular area. These offices may also go by the names Bureau of Vital Statistics or Bureau of Vital Records. In addition, some areas do not have a specific vital records office, and vital records are maintained by the county clerk’s office instead.
Vital records offices create and keep on file the original versions of:
- Birth Certificates
- Death Certificates
- Marriage Certificates
- Divorce Certificates
- Domestic Partnership or Civil Union Records (where applicable)
These vital records contain sensitive information that could be used to steal someone’s identity, including full names, parents’ names, and dates of birth. So, the original versions always remain under lock and key at the vital records office where they were created.
To get a copy of one of these vital records, you must apply in the state where the event occurred since Vital Records Offices can only issue certificates of records kept in the same state. However, most of these records are closed, so only the record holder and their immediate family members can access them. In addition, the records in each state only go back so far since most states did not begin formally keeping records of these events until sometime in the early 1900s.
You can apply online, in-person, or by mail to get a copy of a vital record or birth certificate replacement. The Vital Records Office will make a copy of the original and send it to you by mail.