The Role Of Vital Records In The United States

The data and information gathered from vital records are critical in quantifying and identifying various issues related to health and standard of living. In addition, the data helps measure progress toward quality improvement in the USA.

What Is The Meaning Of Vital Records?

Most commonly, vital records refer to records like birth and death certifications, divorce decrees and marriage licenses, wills, and the like. Local authorities create these records. There are possible exceptions for events overseas where the records are made in the District of Columbia or the military. Since they are not considered federal records, they are not held by NARA.

You can learn how to obtain marriage, birth, divorce, and birth records from territorial and state agencies by going to the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics website.

You can even check and apply for vital records online. More on this is in the FAQ section below.

Types Of Vital Records

Vital records incorporate the number of significant events taking place in human life. For example, birth, fetal death, death, divorce, marriage, adoption, et cetera. An excessive amount of data is collected and analyzed through these records and used for the betterment of the society and nation.

The following are the major types of vital records:

●     Birth records – This includes the number of absolute births, the sex ratio at birth, and crude birth rates. Also, it comprises fertility rates in terms of the age-specific fertility rate, adolescent birth rate, total fertility rates, etc. 

●     Death records – This includes the number of deaths, cause-specific death rates, crude death rates, etc. 

●     Marriage records – This includes the number of absolute marriages, the median age at marriage, age-specific distributions, and rates.  

●     Divorce records – This includes the number of absolute divorces, the median age at divorce, age-specific distributions and rates, and the case of divorce.   

Uses or Importance of Vital Records:

For Individuals

Vital records play a role in the life of individuals. For instance, a child’s birth certificate. This is issued by the registering authority, and it is an important document that has the date, place, time, and percentage of the child. It also authorizes the child’s identity.

This certificate is a legal document, and it is deployed in different tasks like obtaining a passport, taking admission to school, migrating to another country, et cetera.

Similarly, a marriage certificate records the marital status of a couple, and a death certificate records that the individual doesn’t exist in this world any longer.

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For Legal Use 

Vital records like certificates related to divorce, birth, marriage, and death are legally necessary. For instance, a death certificate is essential for claiming an insurance policy or for the settlement of the property of the expired person.

For the Country Or Nation

Vital records help the country or nation investigate population trends and attempt to bridge the gap between two consensuses. It allows them to assess the population’s composition, size, growth, and distribution.

Using these statistics and data, experts can create population projections and help create policies for offering social security to the masses.

So, vital records in the US play an essential role in helping analytics and experts assess the population’s financial, social, and physical health. It also allows individuals to join a school, migrate to a different country, et cetera.


1.   Can I apply for vital records online?

You can apply for birth, death, and marriage certificates online through government-approved resources like VitalChek Network, Inc.

2.   Why is it taking so long to receive a copy of my record?

If it takes too long to get a copy of your vital record, it might be due to the high volume of incoming applications. Also, older records are not in electronic or digital format, and this will require physical searches to locate the record.

3.   What changed in the vital records law?

There are several changes made by the vital records law, and some of the important ones are:

●     Limiting the release of certified copies of death, birth, and fetal death records to a qualified applicant. 

●     All qualified applicants must provide proof of eligibility documentation and identification. 

●     Creating short-form death certificates that don’t contain manner or cause of death information to safeguard the medical information of the deceased. 

●     Allowing the release of non-certified informational copies of birth and short-form death records to the public. 

●     Adding a non-binary X sec designation option on the records. 

●     Not charging a fee for birth certificates for people experiencing homelessness. 

●     The certificate fee is increased to $25. The non-certified informational copy fee is also the same. 

4.   Who are the qualified applicants for birth certificates?

Applicants who are qualified to apply for birth certificates are siblings, domestic partner or spouse, subject of the record, stepchild or child, legal guardian, step-parent, parent, grandchild, great grandparent or grandparent, authorized representative, legal representative, government agency or the courts if the birth certificate is used to conduct official duties, et cetera.

Feature image by Freepik/Government of Indiana.