Vital records are official records of a person’s identity and major life events that are held by the government. This includes birth certificates, death certificates, marriage licenses, and divorce records. Vital records are considered “vital” because they are required in certain instances. For example, you may need your marriage certificate to take advantage of spousal benefits including social security benefits. Vital records are maintained at the county and state levels. Because they are not federally maintained, knowing the county or state where the birth, marriage, divorce, or death occurred makes it easier to find these records.