State or Local

What is the difference between a "State" and "Local" certificate, like death, birth etc.?

Submitted byEEon Tue, 12/10/2019 - 17:17

A local certificate is one we order from a local (city or county) office. A state certificate is one we order from the State Bureau of Vital Records (or its equivalent title). The content can vary significantly between the two, although state-level registrations are often based on the record created locally. Also, locally-held and state-level registrations are often organized differently. Our citation should indicate specifically what we have and include the elements that are relevant, according to where we obtained the record.

Submitted bytmphelpson Sun, 12/29/2019 - 15:04

Is the key piece of information "where it came from" rather than the form of the record itself?

I have a certified copy of a death certificate. The death certificate is a state form that was prepared by and certified by the Register of Deeds in the county where she died. This is one of the death certificates prepared by the county and provided to the family immediately after death. At the time the certified copy was provided, it had not yet been filed with the state, so there is no state file number present, and the "Date Registered by State" field is blank.

My interpretation is that I have a state certificate that, at the time I obtained it, had not yet been filed with the state - it was provided by the county. In the future a researcher would obtain a copy of this death certificate from the state, but that is not where mine came from. "Our citation should indicate specifically what we have and include the elements that are relevant, according to where we obtained the record." I have a state certificate that I obtained from the county.

Am I overthinking this?

Submitted byEEon Wed, 01/01/2020 - 10:56

huskym1025,

You ask: "Is the key piece of information 'where it came from' rather than the form of the record itself?"

The answer is both. Citations have two needs: 1) to identify where our information came from; and 2) to identify it precisely enough that we can evaluate the reliability of the information. Both form and provenance—provenance of the record and provenance of the information provided in the record—are essential elements to identify and analyze.

If you obtained this yourself from a county office, then you identify that office as the provenance of the document. If it was not then filed in a numerical or book/page system, then you don't have a number or a book/page to cite. Simply explain what you have. The fact that the printed form says "State of Wherever" does not mean that the "State of Wherever" created the record you have or that someone who seeks the record at the state office of vital registrations would get the same exact document.

As a comparison: If you use a court record book created by the county and you extract from it a criminal case.  Odds are, the document will begin with, say, "State of Whatever vs. Milly Miscreant." The fact that the record's header says "State of ..." does not mean that the state created the record.