A constituent brought, to my attention the need to make access to Ohio’s birth and death certificates easier and more affordable. In the past the local county boards of health and the State Health Department have had different policies on how to access these documents. Although allowing local boards to operate as they see fit is an optimal way to govern, this current policy creates confusion and unnecessary expenses as people travel the state to track down these important family documents.
For genealogists, access to these records is critical to prove family lineage and aide in their research. County boards of health around the state have traditionally been able to handle these requests in a variety of ways based on local preferences. Some boards have required these genealogists and researchers to purchase a “certified copy” of these documents while other boards around the state have allowed researchers to take pictures of the document instead.
The Ohio Department of Health worked with the Legislature to include a provision in the biennial budget that provides uniformity for all county boards of health on this important matter. Rather than having some county boards allow pictures and others require the purchase of a certified copy, this fall all 88 boards of health will be required to allow the public to take pictures of both birth and death certificates.
This is an optimal solution to bureaucracy in the age of smart phones when so many Ohioans have a camera readily available. In the future, rather than dealing with inconsistencies and possible expenses, all Ohioans will have easy and affordable access to birth and death certificates.
In deliberations, Ohio’s genealogist verified that a photo of the certificate would satisfy requirements for proof of lineage. This is a common-sense reform that is improving the lives of Ohioans in western Ohio and across the state by removing the red tape and getting them what they want easily and affordably.
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The writer represents the 84th District in the Ohio House of Representatives.