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Vital Records are documents related to birth, death, marriage, and other milestones in a person's life that are recorded by the government. A number of government agencies maintain Vital Records at the state or municipal level, and certain documents may also be housed by the National Archives. The most common forms of Vital Records include birth and death records, records of marriage and domestic partnerships, and divorce records. These records all document a person's life, and they may be required for a range of legal purposes.
A birth certificate is a Vital Record that confirms a person's full, legal birth name, birth date, and location of birth. Birth certificates also contain information about an individual's parents. These records are required to access various government services, including applying for a passport, a marriage certificate, or a Social Security number.
Death certificates contain details about an individual's death, including the date of death, the location, and in some cases, the cause of death. The death certificate may also list the authority that confirmed the death. These records are required to settle estates and wills, for insurance purposes, and to handle other legal matters after a person's death.
Marriage certificates and domestic partnership records confirm that the union between two individuals is recognized by the state. These documents include personal information on each member of the couple, including names, dates of birth, and the date of the union. These records are required for legal name changes and to apply for certain spousal benefits.
Divorce decrees, or divorce certificates, legally confirm that a couple has dissolved their marriage. The divorce decree or divorce certificate is required for legal proceedings after the divorce, including financial and property settlements, alimony filings, and orders for child custody.
Vital Records are important for many legal actions, such as applying for a passport or legally changing your name. They are also useful for genealogists, historians, and sociologists who can use Vital Records to trace a family's ancestry, understand historical birth or death trends, and answer other research questions.