Sunday, February 27, 2011

Question for State Vital Records Office: Why Certified when Basic Will Do?

I'm a stay at home mom. I do some freelance writing for extra money, but my husband makes the bulk of the income our family lives on. By necessity, the majority of my genealogy research has been done utilizing free and low-cost resources, free trials and look-up volunteers.

In the event that I need to order a vital record to get information I can't get anywhere else, I am often frustrated with the policy of state vital records offices. Why do they provide only certified copies at an exorbitant price when just a plain copy will do for genealogy?

One of my goals for this year is to determine the parents of my 2nd great grandfather James Thomas Hayes. I have gathered information from various records, but haven't had much luck. I did find a possible father, but I need something concrete to be sure it's the right person. So I decided to order his death certificate.

I know his death date, death location, residence at time of death, the name on the death certificate and even the certificate number itself. To order a death certificate in Georgia, the fee is $25 for a certified copy. Unless it's just not advertised on the website, there is no option for a basic, non-certified copy. From what I understand, the fee was previously $15, but was increased last year.

Most of my mom's paternal line is from Georgia and Grandpa Hayes' is not the only death certificate I need. However, due to the high fees, I have to limit myself and get only the one that I most need.

Fees vary widely between states. I ordered my 2nd great grandmother Addie Mae Deen Sweat's death certificate from Florida for a mere $5. Death certificates for my husband's Pennsylvania roots are $9. I've heard some states charge as much as $45.

When my daughter started school this year, the school told me that I couldn't use my mother's copy of her birth certificate to register her. I had to make a trip to the courthouse and pay $10 for a certified copy of my own child's birth certificate. All the girl at the desk had to do was punch in my daughter's information on the computer to access the certificate, click print, stamp and sign the printout. The process took less than 5 minutes, including the time I spent filling out the request form.

Vital records offices are hurting themselves with their fee structure. If states offered a basic non-certified copy of birth or death certificates for a lower fee, they would probably get more orders, which would result in more revenue in the long run. In the case of Georgia, if they offered basic copies at a reduced fee, I definitely would order certificates for multiple people


  1. Have you tried checking GA virtual vault?

  2. Thanks for stopping by. I have checked the virtual vault and found a couple. Unfortunately, most of the ones I need fall outside the years provided.