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Where can I search for free public records?
Access to Minnesota Vital Records is generally open to the public, except in exceptional cases such as children born to unmarried parents. While finding free public records can be challenging, many vital records in Minnesota are freely and readily available to the public. However, searching through Minnesota’s archives of birth, marriage, and divorce records may require significant time and effort to review the records.
Are Minnesota Vital Records Open to the Public?
Access to these records depends on the type of record and the year when the birth, death, or marriage occurred. Fortunately, some third-party websites make it easy to research specific types of vital records, and they are not limited to your geographic location. Keep in mind that the data on third-party sites may differ from official government records.
To find a record on a third-party website, the person requesting must provide the following information:
- 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
Each Minnesota county and municipality creates unique vital records. To ensure that you have the official certified copy of your Birth, Death, or Marriage Certificate, you should check what the documents look like, depending on where it was issued. Informational copies of vital records usually have a stamp or large print across the face of the document that reads “Informational, Not a Valid Document to Establish Identity” or something similar. To confirm that your certificate is a certified copy, you can compare it with 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 legal documents that can be used for official identification purposes. Only individuals with a “direct and tangible interest” in the document are eligible to receive certified copies of vital records. Informational copies cannot be used to establish identity.
When requesting an authorized birth or death certificate online, you must complete the Sworn Statement, which includes an acknowledgment of your legal rights to the authorized copy. This requirement only applies when ordering from the state, as in-person services may not require it in some counties.
If you fail to provide the notarized Sworn Statement, your request will be considered incomplete and returned to you without processing, which may cause further delays.
Informational copies, also known as short-form, unofficial (non-certified), “heirloom,” or “commemorative certificates,” are not official legal documents. They are intended only for display or personal reference. They cannot be used for official purposes such as establishing identity, obtaining a passport, or proving eligibility for benefits. These copies are available without any documentation and are printed on plain paper. The cost of an informational copy is $13.
If you need a copy of a birth or death record, you can get a non-certified copy. This copy is printed on plain paper and only for informational use. It cannot be used for legal purposes. Anyone can purchase a non-certified copy of a Minnesota death record. However, only certain people can buy a non-certified copy if the birth record is confidential. The requester must sign the application in front of a notary public.
It’s important to note that even non-certified informational copies of birth certificates of children born to unwed parents are considered confidential and have restricted access. If you request an informative copy, you generally do not need to provide a Sworn Statement.
Informational copies are typically used for personal record-keeping or genealogical research. They are not official legal documents and cannot be used for official purposes. In Minnesota, citizens have the right to inspect or obtain copies of public records in compliance with the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act (MGDPA). Birth and marriage certificates are among the public records that can be obtained in different types of copies.
For more information on birth, death, and marriage certificates, please refer to the resources section.