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OK2Explore goes live Monday

If you have family from Oklahoma, the way The Legal Genealogist does, clear the decks for Monday, January 9th.

Tell the kids and the spouse they’re on their own for dinner.

Tell the dog he’ll have to take his own walk.

Tell the cat she knows how to open the treats jar.

You will be busy.

Oh, boy will you be busy.

Because on Monday, January 9th, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) is launching one of the most user-friendly comprehensive index sites for vital records available anywhere.

ok2eDeveloped by OSDH, the new website — OK2Explore (ok2explore.health.ok.gov) — will debut publicly at the meeting of the Oklahoma Genealogical Society (OGS) at the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City at 6 p.m. CST on Monday with a formal introduction by Kelly Baker, OSDH Registrar of Vital Records.1

And then the fun will begin.

OK2Explore will allow users to search records of births occurring more than 20 years ago and deaths occurring more than five years ago, and to purchase copies if they are either eligible to do so or if the records are now old enough to be considered public.

The website came about after legislation was passed in 2016, authored by Rep. Elise Hall, Sen. David Holt and Sen. Anastasia Pittman. The legislation provided that records of births that occurred more than 125 years ago and records of deaths occurring more than 50 years ago should be open record, and opened an even more comprehensive set of birth and death indexes to the public.

“Vital Records has worked diligently over the years to preserve the integrity of the birth and death records, protect the identity of our citizens, and we continue to preserve the historical documents of our state and our families,” said Baker.

Going the next step to make the index available required development of a whole new online research tool, but the Vital Records team not only rose to the challenge — they beat the deadline set by the Legislature by six full months. “Given recent technology advances, we are very pleased to have an opportunity … to provide this new tool to the public at no charge.” Baker added.

The team that put the website together included the Vital Records staff, the Oklahoma Office of Management and Enterprise Services and a team of testers from OGS. OGS President Mike Birdsong called it “a great example of public agencies and non-profit entities working for the greater good,” and said it had been an “honor to work with such committed OSDH staff.”

For family historians, collecting copies of ancestors’ birth and death certificates can be a timely and costly process. “With OK2Explore, users can immediately access records which helps verify an ancestor’s data,” Birdsong said. “We certainly respect the privacy rights of living and recently deceased Oklahomans, and feel this index is a good balance between protecting privacy and researching family records.”

He added that “Kelly Baker and her staff have delivered a wonderful tool for family researchers. They not only listened to ways to improve the index but used that input to make the product better, plus they delivered it six months ahead of schedule.”

The birth and death indexes on the website will be updated monthly with new records and corrections. The site cautions that users need to be aware that “there will be some errors due to a doctor or funeral director making a mistake when filling out a record, the family not providing the correct information, …difficulty in reading the handwriting, typographical error,” and the like.

Researchers who want to order an actual copy of a non-public birth or death record will be required to meet the state eligibility requirements (see this link for birth records and this link for death records). For public records (births that occurred more than 125 years ago and records of deaths occurring more than 50 years), there isn’t any eligibility issue, but applications, payment and identification are required.

Thank you, Oklahoma… is it Monday at 6 p.m. CST yet?


NOTES

  1. Yes, the front page is there now, but the indexes won’t be available til Monday. We need to have some patience!
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