What’s in a name? Vital Records and public health 

What do Chiefs players Lucas Niang, Willy Gay, and Mike Danna have that Travis Kelce doesn’t? Some of the most popular boys’ names in Virginia!

This week, VDH’s Office of Vital Records announced the top baby names of 2023, including Liam, Noah, William, Lucas, and Michael for boys and Charlotte, Emma, Olivia, and Sophia for girls. The office also notes that July 7, 2023, was the largest single day for births in the commonwealth—we welcomed 332 babies that day!—while August was the month with the largest number of births.

Fun baby name facts are just a small part of what Vital Records staff do. At RHHD, the Vital Records teams maintain certificates of birth, death, marriage, and divorce, and helps community members access these important documents. Business managers Christine Sult and Nora Herrera-Sanchez oversee Vital Records in Henrico and Richmond, respectively. Both say that Vital Records is a critical—and perhaps less familiar—aspect of public health.

“These documents are housed within VDH because the data that makes up these certificates enhances statistical reporting. It’s one of the ways CDC gets information,” Christine explains. She says that birth records can help public health workers understand important data about delivery methods, the ages of parents, and the number of healthy pregnancies.

RHHD’s Vital Records staff print copies of certificates for people who need them. They can also direct residents to the right offices if they need to make changes to those certificates or to use them for things like applying for a driver’s license, accessing SNAP benefits, or transporting a loved one who has passed away out of Virginia.

Nora says that Vital Records Deputy Registrars often interact with people who are in a moment of life transition, high stress, or grief after the loss of a relative. “We have offices at our clinics because we want to be close to the public to provide these services. We’ve also become a bridge for populations who don’t speak English, who face a lot of barriers when a baby is born here.” Christine has also observed challenges for parents trying to file a birth certificate for babies born at home instead of at a hospital.

In each of these cases, having an experienced registrar helping a resident navigate these processes makes all the difference. “RHHD provides wonderful customer service for people who walk in and are looking for birth and death certificates,” Nora says. “Staff show so much compassion, and I’m so proud to work with them—they really know the needs of the public.”

Christine agrees: “Sometimes you’re getting someone who’s having a really hard time, and it’s amazing to be able to provide the resources to help them get closure or accomplish something that surrounds whatever event that it is.” She encourages residents to visit the Office of Vital Records FAQ page to learn more about when certain records become public, how to use records requests to further your genealogical research, and how to request a needed certificate. You can also walk in to RHHD’s Vital Records:

400 E. Cary St., Room 126

Henrico West  
8600 Dixon Powers Dr.

Henrico East 
1400 North Laburnum Ave