Understanding Birth Records in Genealogy Research

Birth Records One of the most useful and perhaps most common type of document used in genealogy research is our family’s birth records. They not only tell when a family member was born, they also identify the parents.

Unfortunately, birth records (registrations) are often one of the most difficult records to get your hands on because of our privacy laws. Let’s take a look at the valuable information birth records can provide, and where you can find them.

Types of Birth Records

1. Original Documents: Birth records are usually created when a person is born. They’re signed by the attending doctor, witnessed and then filed. However, sometimes this process does not happen.

2. Amended birth documents: When something changes, say, a woman learns that the father of the child is a different person then was originally documented, then changes get made to the original registration. In this case you’d find or look for an amended birth registration.

3. Delayed birth documents: Sometimes, for one reason or another, a birth certificate is not issued immediately. In this case, a certificate can be issued after the original birth. This is called a delayed birth certificate.

It’s important to know what type of documents are available when you’re doing genealogical research. Sometimes the process is a matter of using the right wording when requesting the documents, and if you request an original birth certificate, when one doesn’t exist, you won’t receive any information.

What Information Will A Birth Certificate Provide?

While documentation varied depending on when the birth took place and where, people are a lot more careful with information today than they were several hundred years ago; most birth certificates contain:
   a) The name of the child
   b) The gender of the child
   c) The child’s race
   d) The mother’s name (sometimes the mother’s maiden name is also included)
   e) The father’s name
   f) Date, time, and location of the birth.

Additionally, some birth certificates may contain more in depth information including:
   a) The mother’s age, race, occupation, and place of birth
   b) The father’s age, race, occupation, and place of birth
   c) The number of children in the family
   d) The number this child is in the family

Where To Find Birth Records

The best way to find birth records is to write to the community where the person was born. The records are filed permanently in a State/Provincial vital statistics office or in a city, county, or other local office… or archives if the records are old enough.

You can find guidelines for requests at:
   Canadian
   United States
and a list of where to write for vital records at:
   United States

Fees and policies vary by location. However all locations require the following information to obtain birth records:
   1. Full name of person whose record is requested.
   2. Sex.
   3. Parents’ names, including maiden name of mother.
   4. Month, day, and year of birth or death.
   5. Place of birth or death (city or town, county, and State; and name of hospital, if known).
   6. Purpose for which copy is needed.
   7. Relationship to person whose record is requested.
   8. Daytime telephone number with area code.

You can also often find birth records in military information, and can compare data you have found in other locations including city directories and census data.

Birth records (registrations) can be one of the most useful pieces of information in your genealogy project. However it takes patience and persistence to obtain these records.

Previous articles:
  What Is Genealogy?
  Why is Genealogy Important?
  What To Do When You Have A Common Surname
  Do I Need The Help Of A Professional Genealogist?
  How to find free basic genealogy information

Next article: Understanding Death Records in Genealogy Research

About the Author Admin

Internet Specialist by trade and passionate about my family's history, I set out to try and reconnect the many lost connections with my paternal family.

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