Historians cheer new online search tool for vital records

OKLAHOMA - Historians are calling it a win for transparency in Oklahoma.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health ensuring Oklahomans have easy access to a treasure trove of old vital records, including birth and death certificates, often used to track your family history.

Genealogist Mike Birdsong was filling in some holes in his family tree a few years ago, searching for a birth certificate for his grandmother, Annie Birdsong.

Mike paid for an OSDH search for the document, but the vital records department turned up nothing.

"My grandmother was born in 1899, before birth records," Mike said.

He paid $15 and some change for the search and then waited for results that never came.

Now, thanks to a new online tool, the state is offering online confirmation for free.

For Mike, he thought that meant he could now confirm Annie did not have a birth certificate on file.

But, to his surprise, he searched for her record and found confirmation.

"I looked online and found she filed for a delayed birth certificate in 1935," Mike said. "Now, I'm able to get her birth certificate as part of my family history."

Turns out, the online search was more accurate than the human search done years ago.

"Culture and history is just so valuable to our community, because we are such a diverse state," said Kelly Baker, OSDH Registrar of Vital Records.

A quick peak inside the vital records vault reveals eight million issuable records.

With such volumes maintained by the State Health Department, you can understand why sometimes record's like Annie's fell through the cracks and why many people don't even try - because of the hassle.

"In order to have access to the records search, people would have to apply, and we would have to do the search for them and they really wouldn't know if there was a record," Baker said.

Now, you can search online for death certificates more than 50 years old and birth certificates more than 125 years old.

Those documents are open record in Oklahoma.

Their existence can now easily be confirmed online.

To view the document or request a copy, the customary $15 fee remains.

Historians and genealogists are thrilled the state has unlocked the first hurdle in every search.

The vital records site just launched.

CLICK: OK2Explore to search the OSDH vital record database.

The site officially went live during the monthly meeting of the Oklahoma Genealogical Society meeting.