July 2015 Vital Records

July 2015

Vital Records News

Funeral directors to receive enhanced email notifications

One result of the Minnesota Death Data Delivery quality improvement project and the Kaizen (process improvement) event is a commitment by OVR to improving communication with funeral establishments.

Because funeral staff have a critical role and responsibility in assuring that deaths are registered and that records are complete, OVR will introduce more tools to help track the status of records.

The MR&C system will soon send concise and clear email notifications to the funeral director named on the death record when:

  • The physician is notified about the death
  • Cause of death is not complete 3 or more days after the initial notification
  • Cause of death is filed
  • The death record is referred to the ME

These additional notices are designed to help funeral homes monitor the progress of their death records and know exactly when the record is complete and ready for issuance.

Acceptable documents of identity:
Form I-94

The I-94 is the arrival and departure record, in either a paper or electronic format, issued by a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer to foreign visitors entering the United States. In April 2013, CBP ceased giving travelers paper copies of Form I-94. CBP automated the form at airports and seaports.

Acceptable documents of identity, including the I-94 form, are listed in Minnesota Rules. Part 4601.2600, subpart 8, indicates that a passport from a country other than the United States (U.S.) or Canada may be used as an identity document if the passport is unexpired and has Form I-94 attached.

To obtain a certified birth or death record, an applicant must provide a completed application and documentation of identity. Some customers may choose to use their I-94 form. To do so, the customer/applicant must visit the CBP (www.cbp.gov/I94 ) website to print out the I-94 Form and submit it with their foreign passport.

Local Issuance Offices should not go online to print an I-94 form for a customer requesting a vital record. The printout and passport are acceptable documents of identity to obtain a certified birth or death record in Minnesota.

More registrar training on the way

Excellent vital records don’t just happen. That’s not news to any of the readers of this newsletter -- the 2,800 users of the MR&C System who enter and issue Minnesota vital records. The Office of Vital Records (OVR) at MDH is developing training classes to help ensure the continuing quality, security and integrity of vital records.

Birth records contain over 200 pieces of information in more than 80 data fields, and creation of birth records has been OVR’s first focus for training development. The first Birth Registration 101 classes were held in March of this year. Based on feedback from those who participated in the initial class and the positive response for attendance, OVR has updated the class.

MDH and the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) will offer "Vital Records Birth Registration 101" again this fall to help new birth registrars develop professionally, and meet state requirements for MR&C security.

This introductory, interactive class  provides a broad overview of birth registration and paternity establishment for people new to creating birth records at the hospital. At this class, learners will practice logging in and entering test records in MR&C. Birth Registration 101 will be held Nov.10 and 12 at MDH’s  Freeman Building in St Paul.

Email OVR at health.birthreg@state.mn.us to register and reserve your spot. Additional information, driving directions and parking information will be sent to attendees with registration confirmation. This class is intended for and limited to birth registrars who are new to their role. Registrations will be confirmed only for participants who have one year or less experience registering births and fetal deaths in Minnesota.

OVR will introduce a new intermediate birth registration class to meet the training needs  of experienced birth registrars.  The new class will be scheduled in early 2016. Participants  can expect to learn more about creating birth records for some of the special situations, like surrogacy, adoption, and establishing parentage for less common marital statuses. Other topics like fetal deaths, record corrections, and using reports for statistics and data quality auditing, will be covered.

The people who safeguard birth and death data while issuing certificates and records have traditionally had annual training opportunities in the fall.

This year, both county and OVR staff will reduce travel time by integrating training with a data collection effort. This new approach maximizes the resources at the state to accomplish annual training requirements and goals while continuing OVR outreach.

OVR will provide a learning package that combines self-assessment with independent training, that collects information about the county issuance office and staff, and that provides updates on policies and procedures. Field Services staff will use the data collected through this new approach to create new county issuance training to meet both new and advanced user needs. OVR will share more information about county and local issuance training soon.

OVR is working to develop a foundational training for staff who register deaths in Minnesota. The class will include fundamentals, MR&C System information, and other information about the policies and procedures that guide death registration. OVR expects to have the curriculum developed before the end of the calendar year. OVR will announce classes in this newsletter when they become available.

The evolution of vital records

Vital records are permanent legal records of events such as birth, death, fetal deaths, marriages, and divorces that occur in each state. It is the responsibility of jurisdictions to record events that occur in their jurisdictions and report the events to a central database. The information on vital records was collected originally for legal purposes and over time collection of information expanded to include statistical data for public health monitoring, research and analysis.

In the United States, the registration of births, marriages, and deaths has a long history beginning with a registration law enacted by the colony of Virginia in 1632 and modified in 1639 by Massachusetts. Those laws required that courts keep records of legal events of birth, death, and marriage. In 1933, all states were registering records for live births and deaths.

Vital registration began in churches with recording of christenings, marriages and burials. In the early 1800s, larger cities established boards of health to monitor epidemics. By reporting deaths, and including information about cause of death, health professionals found the data useful for studying patterns of disease when epidemics occurred.

The first birth and death statistics were published for the entire U.S. based on census information collected in 1850 through 1900. The data was inaccurate and incomplete because people were not able to provide all the facts to census takers several months after the event had occurred. The inaccuracies demonstrated a greater need and physicians began demanding a more aggressive vital registration system to monitor disease outbreaks.

In 1879, Congress created the National Board of Health to promote complete and uniform registration of vital events. In 1900, 12 states adopted the standard form. Soon, six other states, the District of Columbia, and 71 large cities in other states used the same standard form in the same manner.

In the early 1900s, the Census Bureau and the American Public Health Association (APHA) both supported and introduced a uniform system for registration of vital events by developing a model law which included instructions for local registrars, physicians and others filing records.

In 1914, the Census Bureau published the first table separating resident deaths from nonresident deaths. During this time, efforts were also focused on educating boards of health, physicians, and citizens about the need for vital statistics data for public health.

By 1930, responsibility for state vital records had largely moved from civil offices to health departments and use of vital records for public health statistical analysis expanded. From 1935, birth and deaths were reported by place of residence of mother or decedent. In 1946, the National Office of Vital Statistics was established in the Public Health Service. The National Office works with state and local vital statistics agencies to develop a nationwide vital statistics system.

The National Office of Vital Statistics merged with the National Health Survey in 1960 to become the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). NCHS now works with 57 jurisdictions - all 50 states, the District of Columbia, New York City, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, America Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands. Minnesota's Office of Vital Records (OVR) sends vital records data to NCHS on a daily basis.

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) became responsible for collecting, maintaining, and issuing vital records in 1900 for births and 1908 for deaths. Before that, counties and municipalities held this responsibility and collected vital event information locally. Paper records continued until electronic systems replaced them in 1997 for deaths and in 2001 for births and fetal deaths.

OVR is a respected leader nationally in recording, protecting, maintaining and storing vital records. Up until this time, most of the states and territories used certified copies with an embosser (some states without electronic systems continue to do so at present).

Minnesota introduced mainframe computer technology to manage vital records and the activities related to them. As technology evolved and the demand for real-time data increased, OVR invested in creating a more responsive electronic vital records system for use statewide.

OVR was also interested in linking vital records to an imaging system which could track and monitor historical and supporting documents, such as those required for amendments, as well as automatically capturing data and filing parentage documents.

OVR launched the Minnesota Registration and Certification system (MR&C) in March, 2011. MR&C is a web-based system, that registers events and shares data in real-time. It ensures data confidentiality and security. It improves data quality and the system incorporates security features such as access control, encryption and secure data transmission.

OVR maintains a reliable system and continually improves MR&C functionality based on feedback from users, business needs, emerging technology, and other factors.



In June, the Minnesota Historical Society upgraded its vital records image and index system.

The new system is significantly different from the former interface and OVR staff experienced some issues accessing the system and completing functions. The Minnesota Historical Society is working to resolve outstanding functionality problems.

Please expect a short wait when requesting an historical data entry error correction or historical birth record addition to MR&C.

OVR staff members are working hard to navigate the system and familiarize themselves with the new program. It is OVR’s priority to meet customer needs by adding  historical records and making corrections. Please be patient during this brief period of adjustment.


Birth Registration 101: Tuesday, November 10, 8 a.m.-noon

Birth Registration 101: Thursday, November 12, noon-4 p.m.

Register online at: health.birthreg@state.mn.us


Look for OVR staff at:

  • MN Funeral Directors Association Regional Meetings this September
  • 32nd Annual Forensic Science Seminar, Sept. 17-18, 2015, St. Louis Park, Minn.
  • Minnesota Family Support and Recovery Council conference, October 5-7, 2015, St. Cloud, Minn.