Georgia is required to ensure open access to all records that are considered public to its citizens. The Open Records Law, which is actually a series of laws passed over the years to guarantee open access to any form of data that is produced, received or stored by the state’s government agencies, stipulates that members of the public have the right to see, inspect and copy records that are defined as public. Types of data that fall in this category include: documents, papers, letters, maps, books, tapes, photographs, computer-based and computer-generated information, and any other material produced as part of the state’s government agencies’ function.
Public records in Georgia also include information in the custody of individuals or private entities that has been produced or received by the entity in relation to the function of government agencies, including records resulting from the cooperation of private and government entities.
There are two main hubs for public records in Georgia and these are the Georgia Administrative Office of the Courts and the State Office for Vital Records. However, county agencies are also custodians of public records and, depending on the record you need and your location, you can decide whether it will be easier and quicker to request a public record from the central hub or the county custodian.
Georgia birth, death, marriage and divorce records are handled by the State Office of Vital Records, which is a division of the Department of Public Health. Vital records can be ordered in person at their office:
State Office of Vital Records
1680 Phoenix Boulevard, Suite 100
Atlanta, GA 30349
Birth certificates -- While the division stores birth certificates from 1919 to date, there are limitations as to who may access these. To be eligible for access to birth records, you need to be either the person whose certificate it is, one of the parents or grandparents of that person, a child of the person whose certificate you need or a sibling -- in both of these cases you will need to be an adult – or a spouse of the person, or an authorized legal guardian, or another legally authorized agent.
A request form is available at the Department of Public Health, which you need to fill in and sign, and add to a photocopy of a valid ID, including a driver’s license, state issued ID, employee ID card or a passport, all valid, and a certified check or money order for the $25 fee.
Death certificates -- To be eligible for access to death records you have to be in a direct family relationship with the person whose name is on the certificate or a legal representative of the family, which are the most common cases. These records can be requested both from the county where the death occurred and from the central Office for Vital Records. Like for birth certificates, a valid ID is necessary plus a filled in and signed application form and a check or money order for the $25 fee that the Office charges for supplying the document.
Marriage records -- it’s important to know that the Office for Vital Records only keeps marriage records for the period 1952-1996. If you need a record issued after 1996, you have to request it from the Probate Court in the county where the event occurred. The same is true if you are doing research that involves marriage certificates issued before 1952. The request includes a filled in form, a photocopy of a valid ID and a certified check/money order for the $10 fee.
Divorce records -- Certified copies of divorce records can only be issued by the Clerk of the Superior Court in the county where the divorce decree was issued. However, the Office for Vital Records can conduct a search and provide you with a divorce confirmation. Only a request form and evidence for fee payment need to be supplied in this case.
In all cases listed above, the request can be submitted either in person or by mail.
Liens -- All kinds of liens can be found online on the website of the Georgia Superior Court Clerks’ Authority. This search is free of charge and there are no eligibility criteria. All you need is the type of party you will be searching for, type of lien, and name.
Court records -- for court records, you would need to contact the specific court whose records you need to access. The website of the Administrative Office of the Courts contains useful information regarding court rules and forms, as well as caseload reports for the period 2007-2012 and annual reports on the work of every court and the AOC itself for the period up until 2013.
Driving records -- You can request a driving history report for yourself by registering with the Georgia Department of Driver Services. You have the option of getting either a three-year or a seven-year report as of the date of request, and the report can be either certified or non-certified. The non-certified version is viewable online for a period of 30 days after the date of request, and the certified version is non-viewable. It is printed, certified and sent to an address of your choice. Fees vary depending on the period, which you want the report to cover and its type. You can also check a driver’s license status online, granted the license you want to check was issued in Georgia.
Property records -- The Georgia Superior Court Clerks’ Authority website contains a real estate index that includes all property transactions from the beginning of 1999 onwards, from all counties in the state. The information contained in the index includes buyers’ and sellers’ names, location, liens, and the book and page of the deed’s filing with the relevant county authority. Data about transactions for 1993 to 1998 are in the process of being added to the database.
Business records -- Corporate entities in Georgia are registered with the Secretary of State’s Corporate Division. To view records including annual registrations, corporate filings, name reservations and certified copy orders, among others, you will need to create an account and log into the Secretary of State website with it to access the information you need.