What is a Birth Certificate?
A birth certificate is an official government-issued record of a person’s birth. A birth record is one of various vital records that are documents certified by the local government (city/town/county) and printed on special paper with a raised seal for authenticity.
After birth, a hospital may issue a keepsake copy of a birth certificate, but this is not considered an official record. A birth certificate is an important document that must be kept with all other private records and may be used for various official purposes.
Some government offices issue keepsake copies for newborn parents. Each state has its own version of a birth certificate, so not all records will look the same.
Births were not always recorded. The U.K. started recording births back in 1853, and the U.S. did not have a standardized system until 1902. Most governments require documentation of any birth (live or still). It is the parent’s responsibility, or the doctor, midwife, or hospital administrator, to ensure that the birth is recorded with the proper authority.
Keep reading to find out how to get a copy of your birth certificate.
What is a Birth Certificate Used For?
The primary purpose of a birth certificate is to verify your identity. That is why it is so important to keep safe. Some other valid, legal uses for a birth certificate include:
Obtaining a passport.
Applying for a driver’s license.
Registering for school.
Some jobs require identity verification, such as government positions.
Singing up for school athletics.
Marriage or divorce proceedings may require your official birth certificate.
Genealogy or family tree research.
Accessing other family records or research.
What Information is on an Official Birth Certificate?
An official birth certificate shows a lot of personal information, which is why you must keep it safe and avoid identity theft. The information contained on a birth certificate includes the following items:
Full name (first, last, and middle).
Date of birth.
Place of birth.
Father’s full name.
Mother’s full name (including maiden name).
Mother’s age and place of birth.
Father’s age and place of birth.
Name and address of the attending physician or midwife who assisted with the birth.
How to Get a Copy of Your Birth Certificate
Birth certificates are maintained and issued by official city/town/county/state government offices in the place where the person was born. Some examples might be a town office, state vital records office, department of health, county clerk’s office, recorder’s office, probates offices, etc.
Each state has a different process for ordering copies of a birth record. It’s vital to know how to get a copy of your birth certificate when you need one. Only certain people can legally get a copy of your birth certificate. The list of approved persons typically includes:
Immediate family members.
A representative with a “direct and tangible interest” in the record.
A funeral director.
Another authorized agent who is working on your or your family’s behalf.
Most government offices will offer a few different ways to get a copy of your birth certificate. Many have applications online and may even provide an online portal where you can fill out an application, pay the fee and get your copy mailed to you. Many offer expedited service.
Use one of the methods below to get a copy of your birth certificate:
Visit the website for your town office or state government agency.
Download and print the application.
Fill it out and mail it in with a copy of your driver’s license and the fee.
You may have to include a copy of your photo ID with the application.
Visit the town offices where you live to get a copy of your birth certificate.
Be sure to bring payment (some offices will accept cash, money orders, and credit/debit cards). Contact them to find out what type of payment you need before showing up.
Many states offer an online resource where people can get a copy of their birth certificate quickly and easily. However, you will have to fill out the pertinent information, verify your identity, and pay the fee online using a credit or debit card.
Some agencies also offer people the option of ordering a copy of their birth certificate via fax or telephone. These options are usually available if the requestor uses an approved third-party provider.
There are third-party websites that provide copies of birth certificates. However, be sure you are using one that is legitimate and offers official, legal copies of your birth certificate. You will have to verify your identity when ordering. These companies often provide faster service and expedited shipping for an extra fee. You can usually order a copy of your birth certificate by phone, fax, mail, or online using one of these services.
Can I Get a Copy of My Birth Certificate if I was Born in Another Town?
In recent years, birth certificates have been centralized and stored online in a database accessible by most town offices and government agencies. Therefore, even if you were not born in your current town of residence, you can often visit your town office and still get a copy of your birth certificate. Previously you had to contact the town/state where you were born, but because we live in a digital age, many people can now visit the vital records office where they currently live and get a copy easily.
What Information Will You Need When Getting a Copy of Your Birth Certificate?
When requesting a copy of your birth certificate, you will need to provide the following information.
Your full name (at birth).
Date of birth.
Place of birth (town/state).
Father’s full name.
Mother’s maiden name.
The reason you need the record.
You will also have to sign the document, and if you are ordering for someone other than yourself, you will need to specify the relationship and prove it.
Identity theft is a serious concern for most Americans, and therefore, there are strict laws governing who can get a copy of your birth certificate. In addition, there are harsh penalties for anyone who obtains a copy of someone’s birth certificate illegally.