New system puts county records on Internet

By FAITH HUFFMAN | News-Telegram News Editor

Nov 5, 2007 - Need a birth certificate but don’t have time to drive halfway across the state to get one from the county where you were born? No problem.

Have a need to check real property records, misdemeanor criminal records, probate records or civil records but not enough time to drive over to the courthouse annex and look it up? No sweat.

The county clerk’s office can now help with all of those needs, thanks to new electronic systems for such records. Certain public records are currently accessible online. Just go online to http://www.hopkinscountyonline.net and you can access real property records from 1967 to the present, misdemeanor criminal and probate records from 1985 to the present, and civil records from May 1989 to the present. Simply register and sign in.

The basic information can be accessed, however, please note that images attached to these records at this time are not accessible, as the clerk’s office is currently “redacting” or removing Social Security numbers from the records as required by law.

For more in depth records, you’ll have to contact Hopkins County Clerk’s office to request them or pull the books and have them copied.

As for birth certificates, the county clerk’s office can now through remote access provide abstract birth certificates, sometimes referred to as “short form birth certificates,” for anyone born in any county in the state, provided they meet the usual requirements for requesting copies of birth certificates. Of course, you still have to contact the county clerk’s office to get it, but it beats having to drive to another county. And, those born in Hopkins County can still obtain a copy of their birth certificate as well, and it can be the complete document, not the abstract.

The process of obtaining the remote access began 2 years ago when Hopkins County Commissioner’s Court asked County Clerk Debbie Shirley to begin looking into the possibility of offering the service for the convenience of county residents. At that time, the option was not viable for Hopkins County as the Bureau of Vital Statistics requires that the county clerk be the county’s official registrar.

�At that time I was not the registrar. That was done by the justices of the peace. The two justices of the peace gave up those duties on March 1, and the Commissioners� Court transferred that out to the clerk�s office,� Shirley explained. �At that time we began filing the papers and doing what needed to be done for security and other requirements.�

Now, that is “all online” at the county clerk’s office so that when the request form is filled out and terms met, the clerks can enter the information to obtain from Austin an “abstract birth certificate” for anyone born in Texas who’s certificate is on file. The fee, as in the past when requesting a copy of a Hopkins County birth certificate, will be $23 — generally less than the cost of filling up a gas tank to drive to the other county to get a copy of the birth certificate.

So, what’s the difference between a regular copy of a birth certificate and an abstract or short form birth certificate? Generally, the abstract contains just a bit less information, including the person’s name, date of birth, place of birth and parents names — all of the basics required for most legal purposes on official paper. However, it does not necessarily contain more miscellaneous facts such as the parent’s occupation, etc...

And, even better, the clerk’s office now accepts credit cards, so paying for documents such as complete copies of public records found online and birth certificate is as easy as giving the information to the clerks. That means you can also go online to pay your taxes as well, but keep in mind the waiting period for posting.

For more information about either of the online public records or abstract birth certificates, contact the county clerk’s office.

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