Search Public Records
Where can I search for free public records?
Rhode Island permits public access to birth, marriage, and death records after a certain period. Birth records become public after 100 years while marriage and death records become public after 50 years. Searching for free public records can be challenging and time-consuming, which requires planning to find specific information. So, be prepared to invest some time in reviewing the records carefully.
Are Rhode Island Vital Records Open to the Public?
Many records in Rhode Island are available to the public, but access depends on the certificate type and the year when the birth, death, or marriage occurred. Third-party websites can be useful for researching specific types of vital records and are not limited to your geographic location. However, it’s important to note that the data on third-party sites may not always match official government records.
To find a record on a third-party website, you 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
To confirm that your Rhode Island vital record certificate is certified and not informational, check what certified documents look like in the county where yours was issued, as they will vary in appearance by county. A non-certified informational copy of a vital record will commonly display a stamp or large print across the document that states “Informational, Not a Valid Document to Establish Identity” or something similar.
What Are the Differences between Authorized Copies Versus Informational Copies?
An authorized copy of a vital record is considered an officially certified legal document that can serve as official proof of identity. Unlike informational copies, authorized certificates can be used for legal matters such as obtaining a passport. Only individuals with a “direct and tangible interest” in the document are eligible to receive certified copies of vital records.
While some states offer non-certified informational copies of vital records, often referred to as short-form, unofficial, “heirloom,” or “commemorative certificates, the RIDOH does not offer “uncertified,” “informational,” or “commemorative” certificates, except for adoptees requesting their original birth certificates. Only adoptees born in Rhode Island who were 18 as of July 8, 2021, can request a non-certified copy of their original pre-adoption birth record from the Department of Health.
(Uncertified copies are not official legal documents; they are instead created for personal use, such as display, personal reference, or genealogical research. They cannot be used for official purposes such as establishing identity, obtaining a passport, or proving eligibility for benefits.)
Find more references regarding birth, death, and marriage certificates in the resources section.