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What is a birth record?

Birth records detail everyone who was born in the United States since records began back in the 19th century. Anyone who was born in the United States is automatically a US citizen, regardless of where their parents came from, so it is important to register the birth of your child with the local state if you want them to be considered American in the future. In fact, there is a legal requirement for the birth of a child to be registered within a certain amount of time in many states. If this doesn’t happen it can create problems when issuing the actual birth certificates, or if the person needs to get copies of this document later in life.

Birth certificates contain personal details about the baby and their immediate family, such as the full name of the child and, nowadays, that of both parents. In the past, the names of the parents were not automatically recorded on the birth records of every state. However, requirements for passport applications have changed, and you now need to produce a birth certificate which contains that information. If birth records do not contain these details, then you might need to order a new birth certificate in order to get a passport or visa for travelling to another country. In the US, it is the Center for Disease Control and Prevention that takes care of this process nationally, though some states can also issue new birth certificates with additional information.

Birth certificate records also contain details about where the baby was born, and in some cases the home address of the family as the child may have been born out-of-state. Of course, the date of birth is also included in birth records and it is important that this is recorded accurately, as an incorrect date of birth on the first legal document that is issued to each US citizen can cause all kinds of complications in later life.

Birth records are not just an essential form of ID, needed at various points throughout your life, but are also something that many parents like to keep safe for sentimental reasons. Many hospitals in the US will also issue more personal birth certificates, with details like the baby’s weight and a foot or handprint, but these are just for fun and will not be accepted as legal documents. You will still need to register the birth and make sure that your child has the correct documentation that they will need throughout their adult life in the US. Many people will lose their own copies of their birth certificates over the years; replacements can be ordered through the County Recorder’s office where the birth took place. If you have lost your copy and need to know where to get a birth certificate you should have all the information you need to order a new copy; the state and town where the birth took place, date of birth and the names of the parents. It is only if you are looking for someone else’s birth records and are not sure of all the personal details that the search can become more difficult.

Why search for a birth record?

If you need to get a replacement birth certificate for yourself or for someone else, you may be in the unusual position of not having all the details at your fingertips. If you were adopted, for example, getting hold of a copy of your own birth certificate in order to apply for a passport or travel visa can be difficult. In many states, adoption certificates are issued, which work in place of birth certificates.

One of the main reasons that people decide to carry out a birth records search is if they are researching their family tree. After all, these birth records are an ideal way to work backwards and find out the names of someone’s parents. Even though it has only recently become a legal necessity to record the names of both the father and the mother on birth certificates, in the past this information was often included anyway. If you know the full name and date of birth of your great-grandmother, you can then find out the names of her parents and start to work even further back. A lot of researchers or genealogists prefer to head down to the state or county archives and search through their files on birth records themselves – after all, carrying out the research yourself is part of the fun – but there are other quicker and easier ways to search birth records if you don’t have the time or the inclination to do the work yourself. If you are researching your family tree and are carrying out the work yourself, the vital piece of information you need is the state where the birth happened. Birth certificates are recorded and stored by the state, so if you are not sure where to start, it might be best for you to use one of these easier online, national searches in order to find your starting point. Then you can head down to the archives and have some fun!

Birth records can also be a helpful starting point if you are trying to find someone, a friend or family member who has been missing or out of contact for several years. Searching on their own name and date of birth might not be very useful, as it will only return the state they were bon in, but you could always search birth public records for them as parents, to see if they have had children recently. This can help narrow down the search to one state or even one town if the home address is recorded. You can then use other public records to try and track them down and get back in touch.

Sometimes people may use a birth records search to make sure that someone is who they say they are. Perhaps and employer is suspicious that a new employee may have lied on their application or a woman is worried that a new partner might be hiding something from her. Once they have a few details about who the person is, or who they claim to be, they can carry out a quick and easy online search for those details. They may discover that everything is as it seems, but they may also find that the person they have employed or that they are dating doesn’t actually exist! Then it might be time to investigate them further…

How to search for birth records

The first way to search for birth records is to actually get down to the County Recorder’s officer or the state archives and use their files to find copies of old birth certificates. This can obviously be time consuming and very frustrating if you keep on failing to find any relevant documents. Many states have now transferred their birth records onto computer databases, which allow members of the public to search birth and death records online, for free. This is a much easier and quicker way of finding the document you need, even if many genealogists prefer to see the paper copy itself!

Of course, a search on any individual state records will only work if you know where the birth happened. If you have no idea where in the US a person might have been born, there are commercial online search sites which can pull together data from across the country and search every state database for you. These websites often charge a fee, especially if you want to see the whole document. Often, you can carry out a free search that will only tell you if a record exists or not, and then you pay extra to get more details. Some websites will charge you a fee to search for a birth record whether they find anything or not, so it is worth shopping around to find one which offers a money back guarantee if the birth records you are looking for cannot be found or do not exist.

How do I find a date of birth without carrying out a complicated and potentially expensive search of public birth records? If you know the town where someone was born, you can always try searching the archives of their local newspapers. Many people place birth notices in the local press and even the smallest papers have their own websites these days with a simple search facility. Try searching for the person’s name and you might get a hit back. This depends on how comprehensive the newspaper’s archives are and whether a birth notice was ever created, but it can also provide a helpful starting point for further investigation.