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FAQ: Medical or Other Vital Records

The National Library of Medicine doesn’t have or receive medical records, personal health records, or certificates (such as birth, death, marriage, or divorce).

To find your medical records:

  • If you have or have had a health plan, contact the health plan to ask about copies of your medical records.
  • If you know the doctor or place where treatment was provided but don’t have contact information, check a physician or hospital directory at a public library or on the Web, or ask a librarian to help you find contact information.
  • If you don't know a physician’s name, a patient's current physician may have copies of older medical records.
  • If you know the name of the medical practice where your doctor worked, ask the practice about your records.

If a hospital or medical center closed, contact your county, state or regional health department, or state hospital association to see if the records are available. Some hospitals merge or come under new network ownership; try contacting the health care network that last owned the hospital.

To get your medical records, institutions may have standard forms you need to use. You also may need to get your identity certified to protect your privacy. Include in your request for any medical records details about your identity, dates of service, and other information to help find the records. For example, include:

  • date and place of birth
  • parents' names
  • dates and places of treatment
  • doctors' names

In general, records stay where they are created unless state or federal laws or regulations require something else. If a doctor is part of a practice, the records belong to the practice according to the American Medical Association.

Federal Law

The US Office of Civil Rights for the US Department of Health and Human Services indicates that HIPAA regulations do not include medical record retention requirements.

  • In the United States, you are entitled to information in your medical record according to the Federal law.
  • The actual record may belong to the health care provider or the practice, according to Privacy and Security Rules.
  • You have the right to ensure the information in your record is correct. If you find an error, you can ask a health care provider to correct the information.

State Laws

States generally have additional rules about the retention of and access to your medical records. Contact the individual state office of health, especially if the place of treatment no longer exists. The American Hospital Association offers an interactive State, Regional, and Metropolitan Hospital Associations map.

Immunization and Vaccination Records

Some areas have central immunization registries that keep electronic records of all vaccines given in that area. Check the state immunization coordinator contact information for the state(s) where the child lived.


US veterans' and military personnel medical and health records are in the National Archives from the Revolutionary War until 1912. Records since 1912 are at the National Military Personnel Records Center (NPRC), in St. Louis, Missouri.

Birth, Death, Marriage, and Divorce Certificates

An official certificate of every birth, death, marriage, and divorce should be on file permanently in a state vital statistics office or in a city, county, or other local office of the state where the event happened. Check Where to Write for Vital Records from the CDC National Center for Health Statistics to locate the office you need.

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