You are at a Twin Cities hotel ready for a seven-day cruise to the Bahamas and you realize you forgot your birth certificate -- one of the documents you need to travel out of the country.
Today this person would be in luck if they were born in Minnesota. The Minnesota Department of Health has implemented a statewide electronic vital records system. People who were born in the state from 1900 to present are able to go to any courthouse or registrar office in the state and have a birth certificate printed.
Minnesota residents also may obtain a death certificate from 1997 to present in any county.
Before this statewide system was implemented, a person could only obtain a copy of their birth certificate from the county where they were born.
Counties in Minnesota were connected to the statewide database system at different times through the past few years. Crow Wing County linked to it three years ago. County Treasurer Laureen Borden said not all counties were able to participate right away because they did not have the equipment.
Borden said the statewide system is easy to operate. A person can get a birth certificate for themselves, a parent, a child, a grandchild, a grandparent or a spouse.
To get a birth certificate, a person completes a simple form and provides photo identification. Cost of the certificate is $13, $5 of which goes to the state. The county does not accept credit cards for payment.
Cost of a death certificate in Crow Wing County is $10.
A birth certificate is required for a variety of reasons, including a driver's license exam or when a person is traveling out of the country.
Borden said finding a person's birth certificate is not always as easy as typing a person's name and birthday.
Harrietta Kile, a technical clerk in the Crow Wing County treasurer's office, looked up a birth certificate in the index record book.
There are a few techniques on the computer that can be attempted to find the person's name in a timely fashion, Borden said. The certificate is then printed on security paper with the state seal.
The statewide system saves county staff members time in the treasurer's office. Before the system was instituted, Borden said staffers were forced to look up a person's birth date in a large, heavy index book. The office has a storage room that holds hundreds of these books. Borden is not sure what will happen to the books, but said the books could be kept for historical record.
The most beneficial aspect of the new system, Borden said, is the convenience for citizens to get a birth or death certificate in any county. Borden said there are many seasonal residents in the county and many people moved to the area who were not born here. Now these residents don't have to travel out of the county to get their birth certificate.
The county has seen an increase in the past few years in the number of birth certificates. In 2003, the average number of birth certificates for the year was 292 certificates per month. In January, there were 354 certificates issued compared with 344 in January 2003.
The county earned $1,043 per month last year in death certificates. In January of this year the county earned $712.
Borden said there has been no change with the marriage license records. Residents requesting their marriage certificate must go to the county where they applied for their marriage license.
At the courthouse Wednesday, Wendy Goll, Baxter, said the savings alone in time is great as a result of the statewide system. She said before she would have had to take time off work to travel to Shakopee -- where she was born -- to get a copy of her birth certificate.
She said her passport will be up for renewal soon and if she loses her birth certificate it will be convenient for her to get a new certificate here.
"Before, getting my birth certificate was a big deal," she said.
Connie Meek, North Branch, was researching the birth and death certificate books. She is working on a family tree and said her grandmother was born in the Brainerd lakes area and she was looking up her grandmother's father.
She said the statewide system is convenient and has helped her with her research.
Therese Chisholm, Fort Ripley, said, "It is nice to have it statewide because in today's society people don't live where they were born."
Travel agencies in the Brainerd area said the statewide system has been helpful for clients.
Terri Knox, owner of Northwoods Cruise and Travel of Brainerd and Crosby, said clients now can get documents faster and don't have to travel to another part of the state or wait for documents through by mail.
Alice Smith, owner of Riedl Travel Service in Brainerd, said the statewide system is much easier to use for clients planning a trip.
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