Are Texas Vital Records Public?
According to the Texas Health and Safety Code, only selected Texas vital records are open to the public. While all documents deemed ‘public’ may be accessed by interested and eligible persons, designated record custodians may restrict disclosure of records where the state’s statutory exemptions apply. Access to these records may also be impacted by the type of record requested, the year in which the vital event occurred and/or the legal authority of the requestor.
What are Vital Records in Texas?
Texas vital records are official documents generated by government agencies to monitor/certify vital events in their respective jurisdictions. These events; births, deaths, marriages and divorces are recorded for identifying, genealogical, and research purposes, and all documents created to provide an account of the event may be categorized as a vital record.
Vital records include marriage certificates and licenses, divorce decrees, birth certificates, and death records, and related documents. In Texas, these records are maintained by the Vital Statistics Unit of the Texas Department of State Health Services, and their dissemination is subject to the provision of state statutes.
How Do I Search for Texas Vital Records Online?
Texas vital records can be requested online through the website of the custodian in the judicial district where the event occurred. However, vital records are generally not issued remotely, and requests are likely to be fulfilled via mail.
To search for Texas vital records online, the requesting party will be required to provide any information required to facilitate the record search. This includes:
- The full name(s) of the registrant(s) (including maiden name(s) where applicable)
- The judicial district where the license or decree was issued
- The approximate date of the event
- The case file number of the court record (for divorce records)
- The full name of the registrant's parents and/or legal guardian (if applicable)
Publicly available vital records are managed and disseminated by some third-party aggregate sites. These sites are generally not limited by geographical record availability and may serve as a convenient jump-off point when researching specific or multiple records. However, third-party sites are not government-sponsored. As such, record availability may differ from official channels. To find a record using the search engines on third-party sites, the requesting party will be required to provide:
- The location of the record in question including the city, county, or state where the case was filed.
- The name of someone involved providing it is not a juvenile.
Requesters must provide relevant information associated with the record to conduct an online search for vital records. Some of these include:
- The registrants' name
- Date of the event
- Place of the event
- City or county where the life event occurred
- First and last name of parents
- Presiding judge (for marriage or divorce records)
How Do I Obtain Texas Vital Records?
The requirements for obtaining a Texas vital record generally vary depending on the record of interest and the purpose for which the record is being requested. Interested persons may access informational copies of public vital records without any documentation or additional permissions. However, where the document is to be used for official purposes, the requestor must present a government-issued I.D to obtain a certified copy of the record. For example, suppose the record is restricted or sealed. In that case, the I.D must come with the document(s) proving the eligibility of the requesting party, such as a court subpoena or proof of relationship documents.
What’s the Difference Between a Certified Record and an Informational Copy?
Informational copies of a record are exclusively used for informational or research purposes. They are considered non-official copies with no legal authority and may be issued to members of the general public upon request. On the other hand, certified copies are strictly issued to persons who meet specific eligibility requirements. Certified records are usually notarized by relevant authorities, making them legal documents suitable for official functions and establishing identity.
Are Texas Marriage Records Public Information?
Yes. Unless otherwise ruled by a court, Texas marriage records are public information and can be accessed by interested members of the public upon request. However, public marriage records can be sealed or deemed confidential following the request of the registrant(s) or a court ruling. Additionally, the parties named on the record or persons authorized by court order can obtain confidential marriage records.
How Do I Obtain Marriage Records in Texas?
Interested or eligible persons can obtain Texas marriage records by querying the county clerk’s office in the county where the marriage license was issued. However, the Vital Statistics Section of the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) maintains a Marriage License Index which applicants can use to obtain marriage license information. This may not serve as an official document but can aid in locating records or verifying the date and place of the event. The office also provides marriage verification letters based on the information available on the online index.
The Texas marriage license index is available for public download. Interested persons can access them on Microfiche for a $10/year fee for the first year and $5 per additional year (only up to 2008). Index searches provide the following information:
- File number
- The full name and age of the husband
- The wife’s maiden name and age
- The date of the marriage
- The place where the marriage was performed.
Upon retrieving the information mentioned above from the online index, interested persons may obtain certified copies of the marriage license from the county court clerk’s office. The clerk’s office will use the data retrieved to facilitate the record search. In addition, the requesting party must cover copy and certification costs (if applicable).
How to Get a Texas Marriage Certificate.
Like marriage records, Texas marriage certificates can be obtained by querying the office of the county clerk in the jurisdiction where the license was issued. However, marriage certificates are typically certified/notarized and can be used for official functions. Hence, they are only available to persons who are named on the record, their legal representatives and other inquirers that satisfy the state’s eligibility requirements.
Are Texas Divorce Records Public Information?
Yes. Texas divorce records are generally public information that can be made available to interested public members upon request. However, the records open to the public might exclude sensitive information such as details of any financial agreements/settlements (alimony or child support), financial information such as bank statements and account numbers, and identifying information of domestic violence victims.
How Do I Obtain Divorce Records in Texas?
Texas divorce records are maintained and disseminated by the district court clerk’s office in the county where the divorce occurred. However, given that the Vital Statistics office of the Texas DSHS maintains a public index of divorces granted since 1968, the office can provide divorce verification letters to interested persons. Interested persons may follow the instructions detailed on the divorce verification letter request page to request this letter.
Requests for copies of divorce decrees can go to the applicable district court clerk's office in person, via mail, or online. The requesting party will be required to provide the information needed to facilitate the search. This includes:
- The full name of the parties involved
- The date or approximate date on which the divorce happened
- The birth date of the registrants
- The case file number of the record.
Additionally, requestors may be required to cover the costs of copies and certification (if applicable). Where the record is confidential, the requesting party will be required to present a government-issued I.D. and a court subpoena.
How to Get a Certified Divorce Certificate in Texas
Certified divorce certificates are issued by the office of the District Court Clerk in the county where the decree was issued. However, like other certified vital records, these documents are only available to the record holders and persons who have their authorization to obtain the record. They can also be accessed by persons authorized by a court order or supboena. Other than the stated eligibility requirements, the process for obtaining a certified divorce certificate is similar to that employed in obtaining a divorce record.
Are Texas Birth Records Public Information?
Texas birth records that are 75 years or older are public records, provided they haven’t been sealed by court order. Essentially, to be eligible to order birth certificate replacements in Texas, the requestor must sufficiently prove a direct and tangible interest in the record of interest. As such, the following persons are eligible to access these records:
- The registrant
- Parents or legal guardians of the registrant
- The biological or adopted offspring of the registrant
- Siblings and grandparents of the registrant
- The spouse or legally recognized civil union partner of the registrant
- Persons authorized by the registrant or by court order.
How Do I Obtain Texas Birth Records?
Texas birth records are maintained and issued by the Vital Statistics Section of the Texas DSHS. Interested and eligible persons must download and complete the Texas birth certificate application featured on the TDSHS website to obtain a record. Completed applications must be accompanied by the indicated fees and the appropriate I.D requirements and submitted in person or via mail to:
DSHS Vital Statistics
P.O. Box 12040
Austin, TX 78711-2040
Are Texas Birth Certificates Public?
No. Texas birth certificates are not considered public records in Texas. According to the state’s Vital Records statutes, a birth certificate or certified birth record will only be issued to the person listed on the record, their blood relative and requestors deemed eligible.
Are Texas Death Records Open to the Public?
Yes. Texas death records that are 25 years or older are considered public information accessible to interested members of the public. However, death certificates less than 25 years old are not public death records - they are unavailable for public access. Therefore, only accessible to the registrant, their immediate family members, and persons legally authorized by court order can perform a restricted death certificate search.
How Do I Obtain Death Records in Texas?
Interested and eligible persons can perform a Texas death record search by name by downloading and completing the Texas death certificate application. Completed forms must be notarized and accompanied by the indicated fees and I.D. requirements and delivered in person or via mail to:
DSHS Vital Statistics
P.O. Box 12040
Austin, TX 78711-2040
How Do I Obtain Sealed Vital Records in Texas
Interested persons can access sealed Texas vital records by legally challenging the document’s restrictions. They can do this by petitioning a Texas-licensed judge to obtain a subpoena or court order. Upon receiving the summons, the requesting party may present the document along with the appropriate application form to the record custodian in charge of disseminating the record of interest.
Similarly, persons who do not meet the eligibility requirements to access Texas birth and death records may obtain the record if an eligible party permits. Along with a written and notarized statement issued by an immediate family member, ineligible requestors may submit the appropriate application form to the Vital Statistics Section of the DSHS. Applicants must also submit these documents along with the suitable I.D. requirements.
What are Vital Statistics in Texas?
The TDSHS Vital Statistics Unit is responsible for collating vital information pertaining to the state, maintaining them, and disseminating the data for various functions. The Office documents vital events within state limits including deaths, births, marriages, and divorces. Vital statistics essential for analyzing population trends, demographic information, and health indicators. This, in turn is used in research, public health advancements, and policy implementation.