United States Birth Records
Introduction to Birth Records
Birth records might seem like the first place to start your search, but experts recommend looking into death and marriage records first. Birth records are usually the most difficult to find. It is very common to find birth information in other sources. For example, New England town records may contain some of the earliest birth records, but mandatory birth record were not kept by all of the states until well into the 1900s. Some early records of births and christenings or baptism dates were kept in local church records. But, it is not unusual for birth records to be entirely missing.
State and county jurisdictions began keeping birth and death records at different times as required in each state, so you must check with the local state laws to determine when the earliest state or county birth records are available. In some states, birth records are confidential for a period of up to 100 years or more, and access to more recent records may require proof that you are a direct descendant of the person whose record you seek. To write for vital records see the following:
- Where to Write for Vital Records
- Eichholz, Alice. Red Book: American State, County and Town Sources. Provo, Utah: Ancestry, 2004. WorldCat 55947869
- The Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America. Logan, Utah: Everton Publishers, 2006. WorldCat 62744825
Some birth records are filmed and/or digitized and part of the Family History Library collection. To check the availability of birth records in a particular state, go the vital records wiki pages for that state. In addition you may browse or search FamilySearch Historical Record Collections. You may also search either by topic or geographic location in the Family History Library catalog.
Content of Birth Records
Birth records generally give the child's name, sex, date and place of birth, and the names of the parents. Records of the twentieth century may provide additional details, such as the name of the hospital, birthplace of parents, occupation of the parents, marital status of the mother, and the number of other children born to the mother.
If no record was filed at the time of an individual's birth, the person, in some jurisdictions, may request a delayed registration of birth by showing proof of the birth as recorded in a Bible, school, census, or church record, or by testimony from a person who witnessed the birth. Delayed registrations generally did not become common in the United States until after 1937 when the Social Security Administration required prove of birth. The registration is usually in the state where the birth occurred. The Family History Library has some copies of many delayed certificates, especially for the Midwestern states.
A corrected record of a birth may be filed if a name was changed or added. Most corrections require affidavits of eyewitnesses or evidence from other official records. The library has microfilm copies of a few of these records.
The Social Security Death Index (SSDI) is a database whose records reveal an individual's full name and residence at time of application, birth and death dates and last known residence.
A birth record is considered a primary source. For more information concerning birth records by State see the Summary of Births in the United States by State.
Type of Information You may find in Birth Records
- An address that would lead to the discovery of the family in a census or city directory
- Ages of parents
- Child’s birth order
- Child's gender
- Church records for the birth
- Date of birth
- Family’s home address
- Full name of child
- Hospital or name a medical attendant
- Maiden name for the mother
- Names of both parents
- Names of the previous generation
- Newspaper birth announcement
- Occupation of parents
- Parents' approximate years of birth
- Parents' birthplaces
- Place of birth
- Race of child
- Religious affiliation
- Which children belong to which mother in the case of multiple marriages
How Information from Birth Records can Help Research
Once you have a birth date, you can look far a newspaper announcement that could lead to more information about the family. Knowing the birth place can help to locate the family and lead to additional records, such as land records, and city directories. The birth record may also contain the maiden name of the mother and the parents' and child's complete names. Some birth records also have the name of the hospital and doctor or attendant. In some instances, the birth record may also contain the family's religious affiliation.
Places to Look for Birth Information
- Family records including Family Bibles and personal histories
- Birth records including city and county civil registrations
- Death records often contain birth information
- Marriage records
- Census records sometimes give ages and in some records tell the month and year of birth
- Church records of births and christenings
- Obituaries often give birth information
- Cemetery records including Tombstonesusually give birth and death dates
- Funeral home records
- Emigration and immigration records
- Military records
- Newspapers often listed new births
- Probate records
- Land records
- Obtain both birth records and Death records for your ancestor and their siblings and by comparing the information you can establish the correct information.
- If an informant gave the information on a death record, establish their relationship to the deceased, closer relations usually had more details and association with the deceased.
- Death records may contain reference to church affiliation, burial location.
Records at the Family History Library
The Family History Library has copies of many death records indexes and death records. These records can be found in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under each of the following approaches:
- [STATE] - BIRTH RECORDS
- [STATE], [COUNTY] - BIRTH RECORDS
- [STATE], [COUNTY], [TOWN] - BIRTH RECORDS
- [STATE] - BIRTH RECORDS
- [STATE] - CHRISTENINGS
- [STATE], [COUNTY] - CHRISTENINGS
- [STATE], [COUNTY], [TOWN] - CHRISTENINGS
- [STATE] - CHRISTENINGS
You can find further information about birth records in research pages available for each state.
- About Birth Records
- All vital records
- Birth information for various states
- Family birth records
- Ancestry, *Footnote.com, *WorldVitalRecords, *Heritage Quest...
- FamilySearch in the Advanced Search, Records Search, and Books
- Google and other web site search sites, and don't forget to search Google Books
- Locating United States Vital Records
- State Archives
- Social Security Death Index (SSDI) often lists birth date
- Submitted genealogies posted by others
A wiki article describing an online collection is found at: