The popularity of ancestry research has increased the demand for access to public records. Birth, death and marriage records play an important role in providing the information you might need to trace your family tree. It should not be surprising that a government office, such as the Division of Vital Records of the Virginia Department of Health, receives about 30,000 calls each month from people looking for Virginia marriage records, death records and birth records. They also assist another 9,000 people who come to their office looking for copies of public records.
Virginia holds a large number of vital records with limitations on access to them
Virginia has more than 7 million records available to researchers and others. The state places limitations on the availability of records. The current records availability rules include the following:
- Birth records: available to the general public 100 years from the date of birth
- Death records: available to the general public 25 years after the death
- Divorce records: available to the general public 25 years after the divorce
- Marriage records: available to the general public 25 years after the marriage
Other limitations on access to Virginia marriage records and other vital records might also apply. For example, some records are only available to the parties named in the records or to immediate family members while other records, such as birth records, might have even stricter limitations.
Another limitation on public records in Virginia has to do with how far back the state's records go. Available Virginia marriage records are from 1936 to the present.
Four ways to obtain copies of vital records in Virginia
A request to obtain a copy of Virginia marriage records or of other vital records must be accompanied by a legible copy of a form of identification for the person making the request. The following are the four most common ways people can use to obtain copies of vital records in Virginia:
- Online requests: Virginia marriage records and other vital records are available online through a private company working with the state government. You can access the VitalChek Network at their website to pay for and request a copy of a public record maintained by Virginia. Because VitalChek Network is a private company, the fee for obtaining a copy of a public record is higher than it would be if you had requested it directly from the state through one of the other methods available to the general public.
- Department of Motor Vehicles: Vital records can be purchased at an office of the state department of motor vehicles.
- Walk-in requests: If you go to the Virginia Office of Vital Records, you can purchase copies of marriage and other vital records. The cost of a certified copy is $12 for each record you request. You can pick up the record you want on the same day you order it.
- Mail requests: Mailed in applications for copies of vital records can take up to two weeks from the date the vital records office gets your request for it to be processed.
The Virginia Department of Health website contains detailed instructions for each of the methods available for obtaining vital records. You can also call them at the number listed in their website if you have any questions.