What are Vital Records?

Every important milestone in your life creates a record. Such events may be birth, marriage, divorce, and death, each having its own documented record kept on file in hospitals and courts. These are known as vital records, and they provide a legal documentation of these important events.
Vital records are important in a number of ways. Below is a list of each vital record, what is included, and why they are useful.

Birth Certificates

A birth certificate gives a recorded document of the day, time, and location of an individual’s birth. If the birth occurred at a hospital or medical facility, the birth certificate is usually issued by that facility and certified by the attending physician. Otherwise, a standard birth certificate form can be easily obtained by the state registrar and certified by a doctor, midwife, doula, or other state-approved certifier.
The typical U.S. birth certificate form has been standardized by the U.S. Public Health Service, but states are free to issue their own form. On the form, you will find the following:
• Child’s Information – Including name, date and time of birth, sex, city and county of birth, and the specific place of birth (hospital, residence, etc.)
• Certifier/Attendant – Must be an approved certifier by the state
• Mother’s Information
• Father’s Information
• Other Demographic Information – Such as race, pregnancy history, marriage status of mother, etc.

This document is important for a number of reasons. First, the document is kept in the registrar’s office in each state for important census information. Also, your certified copy of your birth certificate is used for:
• A verifiable source of identification
• Obtaining a driver’s license
• Obtaining a passport
• Obtaining a social security number
• Documentation of a family history or genealogy search

Marriage Certificate

A marriage license, or marriage certificate, is also issued and kept at the state level. The certificate is a legal documentation of the marriage between two people recognized by the state as being eligible for marriage.

A marriage certificate is signed by both parties of the marriage and an officiant, and it is also filed with a state government agency, which is usually a registrar or county clerk. The information includes the date and county that the marriage took place.
Marriage certificates can be useful for:
• Verifying a marital union
• Verifying a family history
• Obtaining spousal insurance

Divorce Records

Divorce records are legal documents usually written by attorneys and filed in county courts. These documents are vital for legalizing the dissolution of a marriage and stating specific duties by each spouse for dividing marital assets and paying child or spousal support.
There is no standard form for a divorce document, since each divorce is unique to each married couple. Included will be the names of the parties, when and where the marriage took place, and the date the divorce was finalized in the court and signed by a judge. Divorce documents may also contain sensitive information such as tax records, income records, criminal records, and lists of assets.
Divorce records can be used for:
• Determining the divorce status of an individual
• Revealing criminal history of an individual
• Verifying family history for a genealogy search
• Verifying the last known address of an individual

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