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California Public Records

California Public Records

Introduction to California Public Records

State and city governments are required to make some information available to the public. That disclosure comes in the form of "Public Records" - records that are made freely available (or for a nominal cost) to anyone that wants access to that information.

Public records originated at a federal level, but many states have adapted their own public record laws according to what the state legislature believes should be made public. California public records, for example, are governed by the "California Public Records Act."

What is the California Public Records Act?

The California Public Records Act, signed in 2004, is a law that requires California to make public any record that could be considered a matter of public interest. Anything that relates to public business must be released, and anything that may contribute to public safety (such as inmate records) must also be made available.

However, while the law may have allowed more information to be made public, it also contained exemptions to reduce the amount of personal information released online. This information includes, but is not limited to:

  • Home Addresses
  • Attorney/Client Discussions
  • Medical Histories
  • Government Appointment Calendars
  • Financial Information
  • Although this information is not required to be disclosed, it is still possible that the information can be made available, so it is often a good idea to search your own public records to see what information about you is available to the public.

    California Birth Records

    California birth record applications require a sworn statement to be submitted with it. This is a legal document stating that you have a right to the birth record that you are requesting (IE: you are the person stated on the certificate, you are the parent or a legal representative)

    However, California also offers “Informational” birth records for those that need them for other purposes, such as genealogy reasons. These California birth records do not require a sworn statement, but they cannot be used for identification purposes. They will have the same information on them as “authorized” California birth records, but they will also have a large watermark across them that says “Informational, Not To Be Used To Establish Identity”

    California vital records prior to July 1st, 1905 are found within the county where the event occurred. Records thereafter were kept by the State Registrar of Vital Statistics. No statewide index is available for records prior to 1905. For birth, marriage and death records prior to 1905, write to the clerk of the county in question.

    California Death Records

    Obtaining a California death record is actually quite simple. The State offers three types: official, certified or informational. California death records are maintained from 1908 to present.

    To obtain a certified or official California death record, you will have to be an immediate family member: Parent, child, grandchild or legal representative of the named deceased.

    Obtaining a informational California death record is open to anybody after six months have passed. These death records are quite useful for genealogy and research purposes as they are not official documents. These types of California death records will contain the same information as a certified copy but will have a INFORMATIONAL legend across it. They cannot be used for legal purposes.

    Additional California Resources

    The links listed below lead to government agencies that provide free online access to public record information. 

    For the MOST COMPREHENSIVE RESOURCE  describing all access methods, restrictions, fees, and search procedures on over 28,000 government and private agencies visit the Public Record Research System (PRRS-Web).  We provide the extensive details and in-depth data you will not find doing a Google search!


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