California Vital Records

California Vital Records

The Office of Vital Records is responsible for maintaining all state-level vital records created, administered and maintained by the state of California regarding a person’s most important life events. These records include such documents as birth certificates, marriage licenses, and death certificates and are compiled and stored in a permanent central registry state entities uses to develop statistical analysis of its population.

Birth Records

A birth certificate is a vital record that documents the birth of a child. The term "birth certificate" can refer to either the original document certifying the birth or to a certified copy or representation of the original document. The state of California divides the birth records catalog into two categories: early-1905 and 1905-present. In the early–1905 category, all the records were collected from California church records and county records of vital statistics, which provide the earliest evidence of births. Monterey County, for example, recorded a few births as early as 1824. Most clerks kept better records in the decades following the Gold Rush. In the 1905-present category, all the records are collected from California’s Family History Library.

Death Records

A death record is most likely a copy of the information contained in a person’s death certificate. The state of California manages death records in the following categories: early-1905 and 1905-present. All records in the early-1905 category were collected from California’s Family History Library, which has acquired microfilmed copies of the original records from many counties. The records in the second category are collected annually from California State Registrar and California Death Index.

Marriage/Divorce Records

A marriage/divorce record is issued by a government official only after civil registration of the marriage/divorce occurs. The state of California organizes marriage/divorce records into two categories based on the sources the information was/is collected from, which includes early-1905 and 1905-present. When the county was formed, county clerks were assigned the task of recording marriages. The first law that required the recording of marriages was passed in 1850. Each county usually kept these records as soon as it was organized, so all records from the first category were collected from county clerks offices. Statewide registration of marriages began in 1905. All records collected from the beginning of 1905 are indexed. California’s Family History Library has copies of marriage records from many counties.

Why Vital Records are Available to the Public?

In 1968, the California State Legislature signed into law the California Public Records Act. This law enacts and guarantees that all records at all government levels of the state of California are made available to the public: California FOIA Laws. Every person throughout the state can request access to access all public records through the assigned specialized offices within its determined terms.

What Does Vital Records Access mean to You?

The California Public Records Act is similar to the Freedom of Information Act except for the statement “people have the right to access the information concerning the conduct of people’s business,” which is enshrined in Article 1 of the California Constitution due to California Proposition 59 (the Sunshine Amendment).


California State Archives

State Archives

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California B.F. Hastings Building in Sacramento circa 1853 - 1st Building of the Supreme Court

California B.F. Hastings Building in Sacramento circa 1853 - 1st Building of the Supreme Court

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