How to Find Lost Vital Records

The records you will typically need include birth certificates, death certificates, marriage records, and divorce records. The records are maintained by the state or local government, where the event took place. Getting copies of these records can be a lengthy, frustrating, and even costly process. This is especially so if you need to hire someone to find them for you. Here is how to do it yourself. 

  • Maryland - For information about finding vital records (and obtaining certified copies) for events that have occurred in Maryland visit the Vital Statistics Administration
  • Outside Maryland - For births, divorces or other events that occurred elsewhere in the United States, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services publishes an extremely useful guide “Where to Write for Vital Records- Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Divorces” (PDF). The guide lists the address and phone number of the record-keeping offices in each state and territory. It also includes fees charged for certified records, payment accepted and any special requirements or instructions. The phone numbers are listed so you can double-check on the current fees before sending in your payment. Website addresses are included for some listings to allow you to view instructions online.
  • Asking for a “certified” copy - In many instances, you must provide an original document or a “certified” copy of the original. Usually a “certified” copy is available for a small additional fee. Always ask for a certified copy if you must use the copy as a replacement for the original.
  • Changing a Name (see “Birth Certificates” and “Name Change”) This list of sources contains all you need to know in order to change your name in Maryland. This also includes a step by step process, links to official name change forms (see “Change of Name Forms”), relevant cases, and laws.
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Is this legal advice?

This site offers legal information, not legal advice.  We make every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information and to clearly explain your options.  However we do not provide legal advice - the application of the law to your individual circumstances. For legal advice, you should consult an attorney.  The Maryland Thurgood Marshall State Law Library, a court-related agency of the Maryland Judiciary, sponsors this site.  In the absence of file-specific attribution or copyright, the Maryland Thurgood Marshall State Law Library may hold the copyright to parts of this website. You are free to copy the information for your own use or for other non-commercial purposes with the following language “Source: Maryland's People’s Law Library – © Maryland Thurgood Marshall State Law Library, 2020.”