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Requesting Birth and Death Certificates
The Oklahoma Legislature has determined that records of births that occurred more than 125 years ago and records of deaths occurring more than 75 years ago should be open record. Applications, payment and identification must be provided, but no proof of eligibility is required for those records. A full list of acceptable identification documents and the items that can be used to establish relationships are posted on-line at http://vr.health.ok.gov. [Note: Effective Nov 1, 2016 records of deaths occurring more than 50 years ago will become open.]
For all other records, records may only be released to eligible applicants. 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 individuals identified in the law below may obtain copies of the records. This means a genealogist will need written permission from the subject (if alive) or a family member if the subject is deceased. Proof of relationship between the family member and the deceased will be required. If the subject is deceased and the state of Oklahoma was not previously notified, you will be required to provide a copy of the death certificate.
63 O.S. Sec. 1-323 (Effective Nov 1, 2016)
A. To protect the integrity of vital statistics records, to ensure their proper use, and to ensure 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:
1. The person who is the subject of the record;
2. A parent named on the record or a person acting with the parent’s permission;
3. Someone acting with permission of the person who is the subject of the record;
4. Someone acting as a legal representative of the estate of the person who is the subject of the record;
5. Someone acting as a legal representative of a person involved in a probate of the estate of the person who is the subject of the record, as demonstrated by affidavit;
6. An attorney licensed to practice in the United States who demonstrates by affidavit that the record is necessary in order to administer a client’s estate;
7. Someone in receipt of a court order from a court of competent jurisdiction ordering access to the record;
8. The Attorney General or to any district attorney upon request in the course of a criminal investigation;
9. Only in the case of a death certificate, a funeral director;
10. A representative of the Department of Corrections, when the subject of the record is under supervision of the Department of Corrections; or
11. Any other person working in the best interest of the subject of the record, as determined by regulations of the State Board of Health.
Provided, that death certificates shall be considered publicly available records fifty (50) years after the death and birth certificates shall be considered publicly available records one hundred twenty-five (125) years after the birth.
We apologize for any added burden you may find 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.
Public Index of Vital Records
No later than July 1, 2017 Oklahoma Vital Records will make a free public index available on-line. Researchers will be able to search by type of event (birth or death), date of event, county of event, name of the subject and sex of the subject. The index will include information to help you identify whether a record is on file with the Department of Vital Records in Oklahoma without paying a search fee. The index will include information from records of births occurring in Oklahoma 20 or more years ago and records of deaths occurring in Oklahoma 5 or more years ago. If you would like to order a copy of a record, the same eligibility rules will apply as stated above. Information on how to access the index will be released at a later date.
63 O.S. Sec. 1-323 (Effective Nov 1, 2016)
B. The State Department of Health shall, by July 1, 2017, make available an online public index that includes, as is applicable, the name, gender, date of birth, date of death, county of birth, and county of death of all persons in its records. Birth data shall not be added to the index until twenty (20) years after the birth. Death data shall not be added to the index until five (5) years after the death. The index shall be made available online at no cost to users.
Short Courses on Searching Techniques
Ancestry.com has posted some short instructional videos that may be value to you when looking at different types of records e.g. changes to census over the years, military draft documents, passports, birth/death records, etc. The courses may be found at https://www.ancestry.com/academy/courses/
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