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Requesting Birth and Death Certificates
The Oklahoma Legislature has determined that birth and death records should not be openly available to the public. This is due to the sensitive nature of the information contained in the records, as well as the risk of emotional and financial harm that can occur to families if sensitive data were openly released. Depending on which type of record is requested, these records contain information which can be used to steal an identity e.g. legal names of subjects, dates of birth, names of spouses and parents, maiden names, Social Security Numbers, and addresses. These records also contain information which is very personal to families such as a birth to a teen mother, some parental identifications, and sensitive causes of death e.g. suicide, HIV/AIDS.
As such, only those working in the subject’s best interest may obtain copies of the records (see law below). For births, this generally includes the adult subject or a parent named on the record. For deaths, this includes surviving family members or someone with an administrative relationship with the decedent. A full list of eligibility criteria are posted on-line at http://vr.health.ok.gov.
63 O.S. Sec. 1-323
A. To protect the integrity of vital statistics records, to insure their proper use, and to insure the efficient and proper administration of the vital statistics system, it shall be unlawful for any person to permit inspection of, or to disclose information contained in, vital statistics records, or to copy or issue a copy of all or part of any such record except to the person who is the subject of the record or in such person's interest unless ordered to do so by a court of competent jurisdiction. Certified copies of birth certificates and death certificates shall be provided without cost and without a court order to the Attorney General or to any district attorney upon request in the course of a criminal investigation.
In either case, the applicant should be prepared to provide proof of his/her identity and relationship to the subject. If a genealogist wants a copy of a birth record, he/she will need to obtain permission from the subject of the record (or a family member if the subject is deceased*). If a genealogist wants a copy of a death record, he/she will need to either prove he/she is personally related to the subject or obtain permission from the family. A full list of eligibility criteria and what documents can be used to establish relationships are posted on-line at http://vr.health.ok.gov.
EXCEPTION: The Oklahoma Legislature recognizes the importance of documenting family connections. In 2014, the law was amended which opens records to the public for births occurring more than 125 years ago and deaths more than 75 years ago. For records meeting this exception, no proof of relationship is required.
In all cases an application, ID and fees are required. As stated above, additional documentation may be required for closed records to prove relationship. A full list of documents that can be used to establish relationships are posted on-line at http://vr.health.ok.gov.
We apologize for any added burden you may see in providing proof of relationship for the closed records. We are confident that by working together, we can assure records are only released to appropriate applicants and that we can prevent families from suffering undue hardship.
If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact our office by emailing us at AskVR@health.ok.gov.
* If the subject of a birth certificate is deceased, you may be required to provide a copy of the death certificate.
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