Birth records are available in a variety of forms, and they provide proof of a live birth. There are many situations where you may want to research them. The U.S. Census Bureau has been issuing birth certificates since 1900, and many of the older paper documents have been digitized in recent years. Nowadays you can search birth records, birth certificates and baptismal records for just about anyone.
You'll need a certified copy of your birth certificate to get a driver's license, Social Security card or any other government identification.
Or, you want to verify the identity of a potential employee or someone else in your life. And, if you're researching your family's genealogy, you can learn more about ancestors.
However, finding birth records isn't always easy. You'll need to use a reliable birth record search database, and you may run into complications due to state laws or incomplete information.
Here are some general guidelines to follow when researching birth records.
Many states have laws covering birth records. They're designed to protect citizens from privacy violations and frauds. These laws restrict access to others' birth records. So, it's much easier to request your birth records than those of another person.
If you're ordering birth records for identification purposes, most states require you to prove identity first. The standards of proof vary from state to state.
In California, you'll need to submit a notarized request to receive your birth records. In New York, you'll need to either use a photo identification or two proofs of address.
Since a birth record is a physical document, you'll need to pay a fee to receive a copy. The fee varies by county, but it's generally between $25 to $30.
Ordering your birth certificates is more difficult if you were born overseas or on a U.S. military base.
If so, you’ll need to request a Consular Report of Birth Abroad from the Department of State. That's the birth document your parents had to complete and file with a U.S. embassy overseas.
To request a Consular Report of Birth Abroad, just file a notarized request with your full name, date of birth, place of birth, information about your parents’ passports (if known) and each of your parents' full names.
If you already know the serial number on the Consular Report of Birth Abroad form, you should provide it as well. And, you’ll need to submit a $50 payment to the Department of State to process your request.
You can submit birth record requests for a birth that took place overseas with an online service, but you’ll still need to meet the identification requirements first.
To order birth records on behalf of someone else is more difficult. Although laws vary by state, you probably won't be able to order them without written consent.
For example, the rules in New York specify that you must meet one or more of the following conditions to obtain birth records for someone else:
Because of persistent problems with identity theft and benefit frauds, most states have similar laws about accessing others' birth records.
The format for birth certificates is consistent from state to state. All birth records show the following details:
Since you must order birth records from an office of vital records in the city or county where the individual was born, you'll have to wait until they process your request.
It may take the clerk a few weeks to complete your order. However, you can sometimes pay an extra fee to expedite the request.
There are third-party services which offer to help you order birth records. Here are some things you’ll need to keep in mind about those services.
Make sure you choose the right service to help order birth certificates or other birth records. Some online services only have access to records in some states. Others only allow you to order informational copies of birth records, even though you'll probably need certified ones.
If you’re ordering birth records for genealogy research about an ancestor, then these services may be adequate. However, if you need certified birth records for yourself or a child, you'll probably be required to obtain them yourself.
You should also learn the proof-of-identity requirements in the state where the birth certificate was issued, even if you’re placing the order online.
Online services must still meet those same identification requirements, particularly if you need certified copies of recent birth certificates.
Since all states have strict laws about accessing birth records, you should first learn them before ordering records.
Complete your application carefully and make sure you meet all requirements because states' offices of vital records often deny birth records requests because they're incomplete or aren't notarized.
If you want to quickly find birth certificates and other records such as baptismal registries, just click on the appropriate links for your state.