Texas government agencies and offices are tasked with providing various public records to individuals and businesses that request them. There are many types of records that are maintained and there are varying restrictions on who is able to access the different types of records. For example, public government records are open to everyone, but a criminal history or driving history has access restrictions.
When You Don’t Know Where to Look
On occasion, you may need to get one of these documents for some reason, such as establishing your identification or citizenship, obtaining a driver’s license, social security card, or passport, enrolling in school, or one of many other purposes. Some people may already have what they need in their personal files, but others will have to go through a process to obtain copies of these certificates. In Texas, there are several options for securing certified copies of vital records.
Access to Texas birth certificates and death certificates is limited for a period of time because Texas is a closed-record state. That means that birth certificates are available to only the person concerned, or his/her immediate family members, for a period of seventy-five years after filing. Similarly, death certificates can only be seen by immediate family for twenty-five years after filing. Immediate family is defined as a parent, sibling, grandparent, or child. This would make it virtually impossible to get access to someone else’s birth records, especially the president of the USA.
The Process of Getting Your Records
All documents are filed in the county seat where the birth, death, marriage, or other record generating event occurred. If you live close enough, making a personal visit to the county clerk’s office is the fastest way to get a copy of the document you’re interested in. In most cases, you don’t need an appointment. Just show up, fill out an application and provide the required identification, wait in line to be approved, pay the fee, and go home with your certified copy.
If you don’t really need a formal document, but you just want to take a peek at a record of a marriage for genealogical purposes or you want to see if your daughter’s new boyfriend has a criminal record, most counties will give you access to public records at no charge. As long as the record is filed under public domain, anyone can take a look.
Online and Other Options
Some Texas county offices are not as up-to-date as others, technologically speaking, so applying in person or via traditional mail are the only options in those cases. Many county offices do have an online process available on their website, but you will need to find the right website to determine what you will need to do to access the record you’re after.
In most cases, it’s also possible to apply for copies of public records online. There are many websites of private entities that promise to deliver certified copies of records within a couple of days, but the cost is usually higher than what you would pay the county clerk.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a nice central database you can go to for all public records in Texas. This is common among many states. The good news is that the information you want is almost always available somewhere, you just need to do a little searching to find it.