what are vital records

What are Vital Records? Vital Records FAQs

If you’re an adult, you’ve probably heard the term “vital record” at some point. But what are vital records? You may be more familiar with birth certificates as a vital record, but you may not know there are several types of vital records that are important in our day to day lives. While a birth certificate is the most common type of vital record, other types include death records, marriage certificates and divorce records. These official documents can and most likely will play an important role throughout our lives. Every person born in the U.S. must have a birth certificate. You’ll need these for identification and proof of citizenship. But not everyone needs a marriage certificate, and even fewer people will require a divorce record. Death certificates are issued for individuals who have passed, and are needed for heirs to close out accounts and settle estates. Below we’ve put together a vital records FAQ, as well as information on how to locate state vital records offices near you. 

What are Vital Records? Frequently Asked Questions About Vital Records

Q: What are vital records? 

A: Vital records are government issued records that document life events. These events include birth, death, marriage and divorce.

Q: Can anyone order another person’s vital record?

A: Most vital records can only be ordered by immediate family. This answer can vary depending on the scenario and may include individuals that have been legally assigned as guardians or have control of an estate. 

Q: Can I order any vital record online?

A: Because VitalChek is a government authorized service, obtaining certified copies of vital records can be done utilizing their services online. You also have the option of contacting the vital records office in the location of a person’s birth, death, marriage or divorce to learn how to obtain these copies in person.

Q: What does it mean to need a certified copy of a vital record? 

A: If you’re required to provide a copy of a vital record, chances are good you’ll need to obtain a certified copy. A certified copy is an official copy issued by a government agency that will have a raised or embossed seal and is often printed on special security paper. 

Q: How many certified copies of a vital record should I have?

A: Every scenario is different – this means you may need multiple copies of a death certificate to close out accounts, while you may only need one copy of a birth certificate or marriage certificate. It is difficult to say what your individual circumstances may require. 

Q: What if there is an error on one of my vital records? 

A: In most cases, contacting the vital records office that issued the vital record in question is your best first step. The process for amending a birth certificate is pretty straight forward. But for other vital records, the vital records office will be able to answer questions regarding incorrect information on other vital records. 

Q: How quickly can I get my vital records?

A: VitalChek helps provide customers with vital records by partnering with more than 400 vital records agencies across the U.S.  Processing times may vary based on the estimated processing time at the particular agency you records are coming from.

Q: Why do I need to provide an identity verification form?

A: In some cases, you may be required to submit further proof of identity to obtain a vital record utilizing our services. This is to ensure that we are only providing copies of vital records to individuals who are entitled to receive that record.. This ensures your records are not going to someone who may use your vital records for nefarious purposes. 

Q: I ordered my vital record but it’s taking much longer than I was told – what do I do?

A: VitalChek is a government authorized service that works in conjunction with vital records offices all across the nation. This means that processing times are reliant on the vital records office your record is coming from. If you need to check on the status of your order, it is best to reach out by messaging VitalChek on Facebook. You can also inquire about the status of your order online on the VitalChek website.

Q: Is it actually safe to order my vital records online?

A: VitalChek takes the security of your identity very seriously. It is our top priority to ensure your personal information is safe when utilizing our services.  This is why you are required to answer a series of questions about your identity to order, and it’s why in some instances customers may be required to provide further proof of identity through identity verification documents.

VC video about ordering online securely

Ordering vital records online can be convenient, safe, and secure. Hopefully these vital records FAQs have helped you understand the process a bit better, and can put your identity safety questions to rest. If you have further questions regarding the importance of vital records or what you need to do to obtain them, please comment below and we’ll do our best to answer them or direct you to someone who can!


  1. Is there an electronic option for the vital record?

    1. Hello Paul. You can place your order for a vital record online but at this time you will receive a paper copy. There isn’t currently an option to receive an electronic copy.

  2. Hello, I was wondering what is the difference between a long form birth certificate and a birth certificate?

    I’m trying to acquire a passport and I presented the one I currently have, however the rep informed me

    that I would have to get a long form birth certificate at least showing my mother name. My mother has passed

    and my father was never acknowledge even into my adulthood? Any information would greatly be appreciated.

    1. Hello Betzaida. Thanks for reaching out with your question. For more information on birth certificate types, please click here to watch a short video – Differences in Birth Certificate Types. If youhave further questions, you can contact VitalChek via private message at Facebook.com/VitalChek. You can also reach us by phone at 800-255-2414 or by email at vitals.research@vitalchek.com.

  3. I like to get Carol Aaliyah Barker birth certificate her native birth is this April XXth 20XX

    1. If you need assistance ordering a birth certificate, please contact VitalChek via private message at Facebook.com/VitalChek. You can also reach us by phone at 800-255-2414 or by email at vitals.research@vitalchek.com.

  4. I was born in Germany came to us and was
    Adopted. A birth certificate was made. With
    My new name. Citizenship PAPERS. SSI card.
    And my hole life never needed any of it.
    Got in trouble and did 3 years DOC. Now I
    Am out. All they gave me was a state I’d. And
    A j pay card. I can’t get a job. No SSI card.
    I am one step away from being homeless.
    Now I need to show proof of citizenship.
    Or will lose my food stamps and Access
    How can I show proof. Need help

    1. Hello Ralph. We are sorry to hear about your predicament. Since you have a state ID, it may be possible to get a copy of your post-adoption birth certificate. You may want to contact the vital records agency in the state where your adoption took place for more information on the documents they accept for identity verification. Once you get your birth certificate, you may be able to apply for a replacement social security card through the Social Security Administration.

  5. What are the steps in getting a birth certificate for a new born. I applied recently and received a Certificate of Live Birth. Please confirm process end to end as this has now confused me

    1. Hello Jethro. The process and the type of certificate may vary between vital records agencies. You may want to contact the agency that issued the certificate to find out if they offer different forms or just a certificate of live birth.

  6. What happens if I get a response from VitalChek stating record not found!!!
    When appropriate documentation has been submitted.

    1. Hello Jenny. VitalChek is the ordering service for vital records agencies. Once your order is placed through VitalChek, it is sent off to the vital record agency you selected at the beginning of your application. That vital record agency conducts a search for the record based on the information you provided. If the record is not located, the vital record agency sends out a letter of record not found. Double check to make sure all the information you submitted is correct and was entered into the ordering system correctly. You may want to contact the vital record agency directly for more information.

  7. Hi. I need to obtain a copy of my Certificate of marriage from my deceased ex husband who I was briefly married to 27 years ago but don’t recall the exact date of our very small, informal wedding. Will I still be able to get a copy if I at least know the year that we were married? I kept my married name in order to have the same last name as my child. My Social security card reflects my married name, But in order to get the new Driver’s License they need my marriage certificate for proof.

    1. Hello Christine. You will need to contact the Vital Record agency in the area where the wedding took place. They may be able to search a date range rather than a specific date in order to locate your certificate.

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