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January 24, 2013

Michigan Vital Records Responds to My Complaint

Incorrect Transcript 1876 Michigan
For those following my saga of ordering a marriage transcript from Michigan Vital Records, I received a response to my letter of complaint.

To summarize events - Using the VitalChek service, I ordered a rather expensive ($70.25) 1876 marriage record for Barney and Maggie McGinnis from Michigan. It arrived but Julie Cahill Tarr found the original image online and pointed out several errors in the transcript, including the wrong witnesses.

If you want to read about what happened, see

Disappointment of a Michigan Marriage Record
Caveat Emptor? Or Does Michigan have a Complaint Desk?
I wrote to Michigan Vital Records and explained what had happened. I kept my email brief and ended it by asking what they were going to do to rectify the situation.

It took 48 hours before I had a response. That was much faster than I anticipated! The email began with the fact that they had reviewed my order. The process of creating the transcript was explained

"Unfortunately, our searchers made an error when completing your request.  They actually have to photocopy the pages in a very large journal so that they have the information for our keyers when they transcribe the record.  They make the photocopy and highlight the information; however, in this case, they highlighted the wrong line on the second page."

Whoever wrote the email (there was no name included in the email) went on to say that they were redoing the transcript to show the correct information and would courier it to me at their expense. I understand why they would not offer a refund. The fact that the original image was online and I overlooked it is not their problem. I ordered a transcript (although I confess I thought I was ordering a copy of the actual image) and they were willing to correct their errors and send me the transcript I paid for.

It was disappointing to learn that the items that were omitted on the transcript (Barney's occupation and the church where the marriage occurred) are not part of what you pay for!

"Also, the name of the church where the marriage took place and Barney’s occupation are not issuable items on a transcribed marriage record."

The unsigned email ended with this apology

"I apologize for our error in processing your request.  We always try to provide good customer service, but sometimes we don’t always do that.  Please accept our sincere apologies, on behalf of the whole staff."

What gave me a chuckle was the added notation that "...we are including a self-addressed stamped envelope with your corrected record and ask that you put the incorrect record in it and return it to our office so that we can dispose of it properly. "

I had to laugh for two reasons - I think I can throw out a piece of paper either by crumbling it and tossing it in the garbage or shredding it in my shredder! Second chuckle was that I had a feeling that Michigan Vital Records didn't have loose Canadian postage lying around and the "stamped" envelope would arrive with an American stamp. Does everyone see where this is going?

Sure enough the corrected transcript arrived yesterday and yep - one American stamp on the envelope for me to return the incorrect transcript. Problem is that last time I checked Canada was not (yet) part of the USA and an American stamp doesn't cut it with Canada Postal Services! In other words if I mail something from within Canada I have to use a Canadian stamp!

It's mind-boggling to me  that an official organization such as Michigan Vital Records doesn't realize that every country has its own postage and that the sender of snail mail must use postage from their own country.  Since they were issuing me a new transcript they had my address and must have seen that I live in Ontario Canada.

And being a bit of a nit-picker I didn't like that the follow-up email from Michgan Vital Records didn't start with my name (it had no salutation, it just jumped into the body of the email) and had no signature of the person writing it. Just my 2cents Canadian (that's right, I'm not using American money) opinion that a business or professional email or letter should begin with Dear xxx and end with Sincerely yyy


Devon Noel Lee said...

I needed a laugh and your post provided that. Glad they corrected the error, but now we know... check on line before we pay for anything. The hassle is a lesson learned and a great comedic side show. And I love that you spent your Canadian two cents.

Unknown said...

At least the were willing to "fix" the problem. However, had that record not been online in the first place (or had you never tried to acquire it from FHL or the county), you may never have known that the age and witnesses were incorrect to begin with. Additionally, the new "corrected" copy does you no good now since you now have a copy of both the state register and the county register, which also include the additional information not provided on the transcribed certificate.

I wouldn't bother sending the other one back either. I mean, seriously? What happens to those certificates once they send them is not of their concern. If what you get turns out not to be for your person, what, are you supposed to send it back to them so they can "dispose of it properly?" I think not!

Unknown said...

They didn't correct diddley until you told them they were wrong. If you had remained in ignorance, the falsification of the record would have continued on into perpetuity. I find their methodology unacceptable and unless images are mailed, would avoid transcripts.

Anonymous said...

In defense of Michigan Vital Records, Vital Check is an independent company from the government agency. So your issue was probably with Vital Check, not Michigan.
I had trouble with Vital Check trying to get my husband's birth certificate from Arizona (we live in Texas). We could never contact Vital Check other than email when the certificate didn't arrive after we paid for express deliver, and we never got a response. When we finally tracked down a phone number for Arizona Vital Records they explained that although Vital Check employees work in the same office, they do not work with or for the government employees. If we had been able to go to the Vital Records office in person, we would have been dealing with government employees, not Vital Check employees. Hope that makes sense!

Olive Tree Genealogy said...

Anonymous - I'm afraid you didn't read all my blog posts about this.

VitalChek is the agency that puts in the request to Michigan Vital Records. Call them the "middlemen" if you like. VitalChek does NOT access the records and transcribe them.

As I indicated in my post, Michigan Vital Records explained the error - the clerk who PHOTOcopied the original entry, then marked the WRONG MARRIAGE on page 2. The entries cover 2 pages. he/she marked the correct marriage on p.1 but not on p.2 THAT person working for Michigan Vital Records made the error

So really, please don't bother to defend Michigan Vital Records - they goofed big time. And had I not seen the original image of the marriage, I would never have known the MIchigan transcript was wrong.