Search Public Records
Where can I search for free public records?
Public access to a certificate depends on the certificate type and the year in which the event occurred. In Illinois, birth certificates are made public after 75 years, death certificates are made public after 20 years, and marriage certificates are made public after 50 years. Finding free public records is not always easy, but many vital records in Illinois are freely and readily available to the public. You can find the information you need if you have sufficient time to search through Illinois’s vital records archives.
Are Illinois Vital Records Open to the Public?
In Illinois, most state records are public, but access depends on the type of record and the year when the birth, death, or marriage occurred.
Numerous third-party websites can assist you in researching specific types of records. These websites, typically not limited by geographic location, can be an excellent reference point when analyzing records. However, the data on third-party sites may vary from official government records. To find a record on a third-party website, the person requesting must provide the following:
- The location of the record you’re looking for, including the city, county, or state where it was recorded.
- The name of the person on record, if it is not a minor.
Illinois residents have the right to inspect or obtain copies of public vital records under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
How to Verify if Your Vital Record is Official
Every state, county, and city maintains unique vital records. Your birth, death, or marriage certificate’s appearance may vary based on the issuing authority, so verifying that you hold an official certified copy is essential. You can distinguish informational copies of these records by a stamp or bold print across the document stating “Informational, Not a Valid Document to Establish Identity” or a similar phrase.
What Are the Differences between Authorized Copies Versus Informational Copies?
Authorized copies are certified legal documents that can be used as official identification in procedures such as obtaining a passport. Informational copies cannot be used for these purposes and are typically uncertified. Due to the legal power of certified vital record copies, these documents can only be issued to individuals with a “direct and tangible interest” in the record.
You must provide a valid, government-issued photo ID to obtain an authorized copy of a birth, death, or marriage certificate. This confirms your legal entitlement to the authorized copy. If you request an authorized copy of a certificate for another person, you may need a notarized statement of authorization from the individual on record (declaring under penalty of perjury that you are entitled by law to receive an authorized copy). If you do not provide the required documentation, your request will be considered incomplete, rejected, and returned to you, causing additional delays.
Informational copies of vital records in Illinois are typically used for research or personal records. For birth certificates older than 75 years and death certificates older than 20 years, the IDPH offers informational copies called “genealogical certificates.” These copies are uncertified and therefore are not considered official documents and cannot be used to establish identity, citizenship, or eligibility for benefits. They usually bear a stamp or large print across the face of the document that reads “Informational, Not a Valid Document to Establish Identity” or something similar. Individuals who are not authorized to receive a certified copy can request Genealogical birth and death certificates. Although the IDPH does not issue certified copies of marriage certificates, they can provide “marriage verifications” for informational purposes. Certified copies can only be obtained from the county where the marriage occurred. Anyone who can provide the information necessary to locate the record can request marriage verification.
Under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Illinois residents have the right to access and inspect public records, including informational copies of vital records. However, certain restrictions may apply, particularly for more recent records containing sensitive information. Always check with the relevant agency or department for specific rules and regulations regarding access to these records.
Find more references regarding birth, death, and marriage certificates in the resources section.