Process for Ordering Records

Ordering certified copies of births or deaths can be confusing because of the variety of ordering options available. These options are meant to help you.  There are positive, customer service related reasons why birth and death records are available in different locations and for differing durations.


Your local County Vital Records Office (Registrar) is required to be overseen by a medical doctor. The records have a medical component that is both confidential and necessary for health studies and community planning. Your local Registrar is equipped to understand and use this information while protecting your privacy.  Your local Registrar also makes the records available immediately, so you can obtain a record if you need it right away.  It takes time for the County Recorder to receive and process (microfiche and index) documents and make them available to you.

Your local County Recorder can only record (have on file) public information.  This prevents people from viewing the confidential medical information on birth records.  The recorder only records the top, non-confidential portion of the birth certificate.  Our County Recorder has records for Sacramento County from 1850 on.

The State is charged with permanently storing your records.  It keeps all records for all events that occur in California in one place.  This provides a level of safety, as well as needed oversight and quality control of the registration process.  If a fire or natural disaster occurs, the record exists in more than one place.  If a county is not consistent or timely, or accepts less than standard documents, the State corrects the situation.

These are all things that benefit you.  Unfortunately it can make things confusing when you order.  These are all separate offices that do not have access to order information other than their own.  If you order from the State, the Recorder or Registrar will not have information on your order.  If you order from the Recorder, the State and the Registrar will not have information and so on.
To further confuse things, the public counter at our Recorder is labeled Vital Records.  Many people inquire about their order with us, when they actually ordered from the Recorder.
So why don't we get our act together?  Why don't we communicate and develop a central order system?  Why don't we make it easier for you to get your record?  Good questions.  We are working on answers and solutions to these questions. In a few years ordering may be simplified, and you may be able to get information on an order from any of the sources named above.  We want government to work for you.  We want you to be able to access records and services easily.  Unfortunately, that doesn't help you now.  

So, here are a few pointers on tracking your order in our present system.
  • Look at your check book and note who you made your check out to.  Was it the State of California?  If so, you need to contact OVRS to follow up with your order.
  • If it was made out to the County of Sacramento, look at the address you mailed your order to.  If it is 7001 East Parkway, this is us. (Sacramento County Vital Records).  If it was mailed to 600 8th Street, that is the County Recorder.

We will continue to work toward improving this process and better serving you. Hopefully technology will allow local and state government to make this process easier in the future.

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