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Under The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Title 5 of the United States Code, section 552, any person has the right to request access to public records: criminal records, arrests & warrants, inmate records, vital records & more.

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Types of Family Records

The documents related to family in any manner are called family records. The family records include the certificates of birth, death, marriage, and divorce. These records are not only helpful in tracing the family history, they are also easily accessible. These records are also called vital records and can be obtained by paying a stipulated fee for each.

The vital records are maintained by the Vital Statistics Department. Birth and death records can be obtained by applying to the Department of Public Health of respective county and state. Marriage records are obtained from the Probate Court that had issued the marriage license and for divorce records, application is made to the Superior Court of the county that had granted the decree.

 

Access Family Records

 

To access family records, you need to be the rightful person as per the law. The records can be applied by the immediate family members, their authorized representative, a legal agent or someone who needs these documents for determination of personal rights and/or property legally. Immediate family members include legal parents, siblings, both maternal and paternal grandparents, spouse, children and the person himself or herself. For the records of an adopted child, the rights remain with the legal family and not the biological. The details of the biological parents and relatives are destroyed to ensure the secrecy.

You can make your request for these records in three ways- personally, via postal service and through phone or fax. Some states have the provision of applying online too. To collect the records, you can come in person or the department dispatches it to your doorsteps through normal delivery. For expedited delivery, additional fee is charged and the documents are sent through FedEx or other Express Service. It takes two to three working days to process the request. If you apply it in person, you can collect the records within two to three hours.

Though you cannot always apply for the records online, but you can download the forms from the websites. For example, to get the birth records, the citizens of New Mexico can download the form from http://www.vitalrecordsnm.org/Forms/birthsearchapp.pdf. New Mexico is one of those few states that let their citizen request for records online. To apply online for birth records, fill up the online form at http://www.vitalrecordsnm.org/birth.shtml.

 

County Family Records Search

 

The family records can also be searched on the basis of county. You can send application to the Department of Public Health of your county. Usually the office of the registrar of the records is at public health department. But in counties of some states, they have their offices in probate court too. Georgia is one such state where some registrars have offices in probate courthouse too.

To know about your county, you can contact the Sheriff’s office. The website of the county Sheriff’s office can also help you locate the registrar of records for your county.  The fees for these records may vary in different states and so are the titles. Additional copies are also issued in lieu of additional fee which is little lesser than the original copy.

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