The Code of Iowa defines “Vital Statistics” as “records of births, deaths, fetal deaths, adoptions, marriages, dissolutions, annulments and data related thereto.” One of the duties of the recorder’s office is to maintain records of all county events pertaining to births, deaths and marriages, which were transferred to our office from the clerk of district court on July 1, 1997. Adoptions, dissolutions and annulments are court documents and are found in the clerk’s office.
Since July 1, 1880, the Iowa Department of Public Health, Vital Records Division, has been the official registrar for all events that occur in Iowa. There are some records earlier than that in Story County, but they are far from complete. In addition, pursuant to a change in state law, records from 1921 to 1941 were only to be filed with the state office. Counties may have some records from that period but if anyone is searching for one, it would be advisable to contact the state. All records, unless they are sealed, are available for public inspection during regular office hours; however, a person must prove entitlement to receive a certified copy.
A certificate of live birth must be filed with the state within seven days after the birth. Hospitals transmit these records electronically, and once they are processed, copies are sent to the county of birth. Certain birth records, such as adoptions, are sealed and not available for public viewing. Also, a single-parent birth prior to July 1, 1995, is considered a closed record, and a certified copy may only be obtained from the state.
Death records are to be filed within three days after the death and prior to the final disposition of the body – but this is often not the case. For example, if an autopsy is required, it may take longer than three days to make a final determination of death. Death certificates are filed in the county of death, not the county of residence, by the funeral director who first assumes custody of the body. These certificates are then sent to the state weekly.
Marriage is a civil contract, and the application for a marriage certificate must be completed by three parties – both parties to the marriage and a disinterested and impartial third party who acts as a witness. The witness must attest that he knows both parties and affirm that they are both unmarried and legally able to get married. All three parties must provide proof of identification (e.g. driver’s license or passport) and have their signatures notarized. Once the form has been presented to our office, there is a three-day waiting period before the license is valid. Parties wishing to have that waiting period waived must go before a judge to seek approval. In Iowa, both parties must be eighteen years of age to get married. If either (or both) is underage, parents must give their consent in writing and a district court judge must approve the consent. Marriages may be performed by certain judges or magistrates or a person ordained as a leader of a person’s religious faith. There are no registration requirements for officiants, and many officiants obtain their certification online. Either party to the marriage may indicate on the application the adoption of a name change, (yes, guys, you too, may change your name) and the name used on the marriage certificate becomes their new legal name. After the ceremony, all parties (including two witnesses and the officiant) must sign the certificate and return it to this office. The fee for a marriage license is $35, which includes a free certified copy.
The fee for a certified copy of a vital record is set by administrative rule, and is currently $15, although there is a proposal pending which would raise the fee to $20. All certified copies are issued on a special type of paper which has security features and raised seals imbedded in the margins, and the forms are sequentially numbered and tracked by both this office and the state.
So – why would you need a certified copy? As I’ve said many times, the hospital birth certificate is only good for baby books. Government offices, schools, banks and insurance companies want an official record of the event to prove identity and to make sure that there is no fraud involved. For example, birth certificates are needed to obtain driver’s licenses, start school and apply for a passport. Death certificates are needed to apply for death benefits or close bank accounts. Marriage certificates are needed to change your name on a driver’s license or obtain coverage on your spouse’s insurance.
Passport Update: The U.S. Department of State performed its annual inspection of our passport facility in August, and we passed with flying colors. The inspector said that he rarely gives a perfect score but we received one. Special thanks go to Deputy Recorder Jim Cheek and Deputy Recorder Connie Soesbe for their diligent oversight of the Passport Department. Story County residents should be proud to have these two great employees!
If you have any questions or comments, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the office at 515-382-7230.
(Susan L Vande Kamp is Story County Recorder & Registrar of Vital Records.)