The state of Virginia is required to keep public records on various events and proceedings. Public records are a way to ensure that the state government and other public entities are doing their jobs properly and in the best interests of the state’s citizens. Since Virginia’s public records are among the oldest in the United States, they contain a wealth of information, including county court records dating as far back as 1619. Virginia public records include information on the state government, local businesses, and personal records of state citizens.
Virginia birth records become public records after 100 years. Virginia’s Office of Vital Records exists solely for the purpose of keeping records of all marriages, divorces, births, and deaths in the state. In order to order a certified copy of a Virginia birth certificate, you have to prove that you are the person to whom the information pertains or an immediate family member of the individual. Legal guardians are also entitled to obtain birth records. When making the request, you must present identification. You can order vital records from the Virginia Department of Health state office, by mail, walk in service, or online through the VitalChek system. Birth and death records are available from 1853 to 1896 and 1912 to present. Marriage records from 1853 to present and divorce records from 1912 to present are also available. Applications can be mailed to:
Office of Vital Records
P. O. Box 1000
Richmond, VA 23218-1000
The public can access Virginia death records 50 years after the death has occurred. The Commonwealth of Virginia does not allow access to death records unless you are an immediate family member of the deceased, and you must present the proper identification. In order to request death records, you must know the full name of the deceased, the date of death, and the place of death. When requesting these records, you will have to list your relationship to the deceased and your reason for the request. Vital records are also available through the State Department. Records are available from 1853 to 1896 and then from 1912 to the present. Records can take two to six weeks to arrive when requested by mail. Going into the office to request the records is the fastest way to obtain them. As long as you present proper identification and the necessary information, you will be given the records that same day. The Commonwealth of Virginia will not search vital records for genealogy research purposes, so there must be another legitimate reason presented for requesting the records. Death records can also be requested through the online VitalChek service.
Virginia marriage records are treated just like death records in that they are considered public records after 50 years. Virginia marriage records are available from 1853 to present through the Circuit Court in the city or county where the marriage license was issued. The Virginia Public Libraries archives division has copies of marriage records prior to 1936. They are available through mail request, walk-in request, or online.
Virginia divorce records become a public record 50 years after the divorce occurs. The Virginia Circuit Court handles all civil cases and maintains divorce records. The Library of Virginia is an excellent source for public records information. It has an online database that consists of index card files of marriages that were initially available for research purposes in the reading room of the library. Divorce records date from January 1918 in the county or city where the divorce occurred. In order to access Virginia State Court records, you should go to your local courthouse to request copies. You will be asked to fill out a request form and will likely pay a fee for paperwork processing. You may also request public court records online. Any citizen of Virginia has the right to access and copy that majority of Virginia state court records.
Adoption Records can be obtained through the Virginia Department of Social Services. Any adoptee age eighteen or older is permitted access to adoption records regarding their birth parents that does not identify them. The adult adoptee is only permitted access to identifying information if the birth parents have agreed to release their information. The adoptive parents are permitted to access any non-identifying information regarding the adoption providing the adoption occurred after 1994.
Accessing public property records varies depending on where you live in Virginia. Local governments maintain this information, and local county agencies generally handle lower population areas. For large metropolitan areas, the city government maintains public property records. It is best to check with the local government entities in your particular area to find out where you can obtain property records.
The Virginia Public Records Act authorizes Virginia public libraries to assist with the maintaining of public records as part of a records management program. They help to ensure that the proper records are available to the public while still maintaining the privacy and confidentiality of Virginia citizens. The Code of Virginia requires that certain types of records be withheld from the public including personal records, private records limited by attorney-client privilege, vender proprietary information, records related to the still pending negotiation and reward of a contract.
Another place to request Virginia public records is the Virginia Department of Social Services. As a government agency, they are required to maintain certain records for the sake of public access and information. As with all public records requests, it is best to submit your request in writing in order to make your request clear and ensure you receive the correct information. However, the Virginia Department of Social Services must respond to any verbal request. It is possible to request records by mail, email, fax, or telephone, depending on what is most convenient. In your request, you should specify what records you want with enough clarity to ensure you obtain the correct information. You will only have access to specific existing documents, but this will not include general information concerning the Virginia Department of Social Services. It is possible to receive certain records in electronic form such as email or computer disk. As with most public records, you will likely have to pay a fee in order to cover the cost of paperwork processing.
Other public records that can be requested in the Commonwealth of Virginia include alcoholic beverage licenses, census information, government employee directory, inmate records, and restaurant inspection records. The place to obtain certain public records may vary by county, so it is best to check with local county and city entities, such as the county clerk’s office or circuit clerk’s office, in order to find the records needed.