Search Public Records
Where can I search for free public records?
Finding free public records can be complicated, but many vital records in Maryland are freely and readily available to the public. Maryland death certificates are made public after 10 years. Maryland birth certificates are made public after 100 years. You can search through Maryland’s archives of birth, marriage, and divorce records to find the information you want, but be prepared to devote substantial time reviewing records.
Are Maryland Vital Records Open to the Public?
Maryland Vital Records are open to the public, although access may vary depending on the record type and year of the event. Third-party websites can help research specific types of vital records, but it’s important to note that the data on these sites may differ from official government records. When searching on a third-party website, you’ll typically need to provide the location of the record (city, county, or state) and the name of the person listed on the record (if applicable). Maryland residents can inspect or obtain copies of public vital records under the Maryland Public Information Act (PIA).
To locate a record on a third-party website, the requester needs to provide the following details:
- 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.
How to Verify if Your Vital Record is Official
You can check the document’s appearance to ensure you have the official certified copy of your birth, death, or marriage certificate. Each state, county, and municipality issues unique designs for their vital records. A stamp or large print can identify informational copies of vital records on the document stating “Informational, Not a Valid Document to Establish Identity” or something similar. To verify if your certificate is a certified copy, you can refer to the official, certified documents in the county where it was issued.
What Are the Differences between Authorized Copies Versus Informational Copies?
Authorized (certified) copies of vital records are authorized and considered legal documents suitable for official identification purposes. Certified copies are provided only to individuals with a direct and tangible interest in the document. On the other hand, informational copies are not accepted as proof of identity.
Uncertified copies of birth or marriage certificates are not official legal documents, also known as short-form, unofficial (non-certified), heirloom, or commemorative certificates. They are intended for display or personal reference and cannot be used for official purposes such as establishing identity, obtaining a passport, or proving eligibility for benefits. However, they can be used for personal record-keeping or genealogical research.
In Maryland, the Department of Health offers uncertified copies of certificates in the archives. Uncertified copies of archived birth certificates are available for births before 1925, and uncertified copies of archived death certificates are available for deaths before 2014. These uncertified copies can only be obtained by authorized individuals with approved identification.
It’s important to note that citizens have the right to inspect or obtain copies of public records in compliance with the Maryland Public Information Act (PIA). The eligibility criteria for obtaining uncertified copies from the archives may vary depending on the year the original certificate was created.
Please refer to the following links for more information and to request uncertified copies from the archives:
Find more references regarding birth, death, and marriage certificates in the resources section.