California Vital Records

California Vital Records

All vital records regarding the most important life events of California residents are located, administered, and maintained by The Office of Vital Records. These so-called ‘vital records’ can include divorce records, birth certificates, death certificates, and marriage licenses, all stored together in one central and permanent registry. The state can then use these records to analyze statistics and trends through the population of California.

Divorce Records

Records are kept of all divorces through the state of California, as soon as civil registration of said event occurs. In 2017, there were nearly 210,000 divorces in the state, which is down from almost 235,000 in 2010. Santa Monica, Santa Barbara, and Napa represented the cities with the most divorces in the state. Obtaining divorce records costs $14 per copy, and requires the submission of an Application for Certified Copy of Divorce Records. The can be submitted to the California Department of Public Health at P.O. Box 997410 in Sacramento. For more information, contact them between Monday and Friday (8 a.m. to 4 p.m.) at (916) 445-2684.

Marriage Records

California records marriages inside state borders as a matter of law. Divorce records are split from before and after 1905 to present. The first law requiring marriage records to be collected was passed in 1850, with all records before 1905 being gathered by the county clerks offices. The state-wide registration of marriages didn’t begin until 1905, at which point records were indexed and copies were kept by California’s Family History Library. Marriage records are available after submission of an Application for Certified Copy of Marriage Record at the California Department of Public Health at P.O. Box 997410 in Sacramento. For more information, contact them between Monday and Friday (8 a.m. to 4 p.m.) at (916) 445-2684.

Birth Records

A birth certificate, of course, is the record that documents the birth of a child, referring to either the original document itself, or a certified copy. California separates its birth certificate records into two sections, early-1905 and 1905-present. Before 1905, all records were gathered from the church and county records of vital statistics. Monterey County actually recorded births as far back as 1824. Since 1905, all records have been gathered from the Family History Library in California.

2017 birth levels were at the lowest rate for 100 years, with 471,500 Californian babies coming into the world. This was down by 17,000 from 2016, a 3% decrease. There was a rate per 1,000 inhabitants of 11.9, below even the Great Depression levels of 13.1.

Records can be obtained online, but they do come at a cost. Birth certificate copies cost $28.

Death Records

One of the other vital records, death certificates, or the copy of information in the original certificate, are used to collect and gather death records. Much like birth records, the death certificates are split into early-1905 and 1905-present. Before 1905, records were gathered from the Family History Library, where as post 1905 records are annually gathered from the California State Registrar and California Death Index.

Records can be obtained online, but they do come at a cost. Death certificate copies cost $21, and can also be obtained, after submission of an Application for Certified Death Record, at the California Department of Public Health at P.O. Box 997410 in Sacramento. For more information, contact them between Monday and Friday (8 a.m. to 4 p.m.) at (916) 445-2684.

Why are these records available to the public?

The California Public Records Act was passed in 1968, enabling all members of the public to request all records kept by the government. This is similar to the Freedom of Information Act, with the only difference being that “people have the right to access the information concerning the conduct of people’s business.”

Records can be obtained offline using the following address:

California Department of Public Health
Vital Records - MS 5103
1501 Capitol Avenue
Sacramento, CA 95814

California State Archives

State Archives

Contact: (213) 204-9367

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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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