Peace Bill to Allow Access to Historical Vital Records Signed by the Governor

Genealogical and historical researchers in Virginia to have increased access to identifying and accessing vital records

Central Virginia- House Bill 272 introduced by Delegate Christopher K. Peace (R-Hanover) and signed by Governor Robert F. McDonnell changes the time period that marriage, divorce, and death records in the custody of the State Registrar may become public information from 50 years to 25 years.

Public interest in exploring one’s family history has been growing and there is increased interest in making vital records more publicly accessible.  Vital records are a reliable form of genealogical information because they are created close to the time of the event by someone with personal knowledge of the facts with processes furthering accuracy.

"Genealogical and historical researchers will be delighted with the passage of this bill, as it will open up materials that will facilitate their research. We would like to commend Delegate Peace for his initiative and effort in making this information more readily available," Stated Dr. Sandra G. Treadway, State Librarian.

Currently, the Code of Virginia § 32.1-271(D) allows the State Registrar to make marriage, divorce, and death records public 50 years after the date of occurrence.  Prior to public release by the State Registrar, marriage and divorce certificates are only released to immediate family members, although local Circuit Courts hold marriage and divorce records that are open to public inspection with no closed period.  Death records are made available to immediate family members, grandchildren and great-grand children. Social Security numbers will be redacted from all copies for security purposes.

With the July 1, 2012 enactment of HB 272 the State Registrar will be allowed to make the records publically available after 25 years, thereby increasing the accessibility of  vital records in the public domain and therefore available for family research.

This legislation was recommended by the Joint Commission on Health Care, a commission upon which Del. Peace is a member.  A total of 387 public comments were received by the Joint Commission in support of lessening the time period that marriage, divorce and death certificates are closed to the public.

Delegate Christopher K. Peace was elected to his fourth term representing the 97th District of the Virginia House of Delegates.  The District includes parts of Hanover, King William, and all of New Kent County.