Many vital records, including births, marriages, and deaths, are available to the public as a matter of state law. While this can vary from state to state, in general, anyone can find names and dates of these records, although you may not have the right to view or get a copy of the actual certificate, especially if the person whom you are researching is still living. If you cannot find a death record, there are many websites such as which allow you to search for obituaries and records. The most reliable place to find accurate death records, however, is the secretary of state’s website for the appropriate state.

The office responsible for keeping vital records also varies by state. In some places, the county clerk, recorder, or registrar has this task, especially in regard to marriages. In others, the state’s department of health maintains all birth and/or death records, and even marriage records in certain states. You may find more information by looking up your county records page on this website.

In order to get a certified copy of a birth or death certificate, it is necessary to prove your identity in some way. Usually, you must be an immediate family member, if not the person actually named on the document, to obtain a certified copy of a birth certificate.

Some states do not make divorce records public. They are only available to persons named within the document. In other states, citizens may view certain information, such as dates of separation and finalization of the divorce, but not other details. In some places, the state department of health also maintains records on divorces. If a copy of a divorce decree is available, however, it must usually be obtained from the county clerk of courts or recorder.

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