Birth certificates are considered public records in almost every country in the world, which makes conducting a birth certificate search no harder than searching for land title records, marriage records, or any other public record. The key is in knowing where to search. In smaller countries, like many in Europe, birth records are managed by one national agency. In larger countries like the United States and Canada, however, records are kept at the state or sometimes even county level. A successful birth certificate search in these larger countries usually requires a little bit of research into where the birth certificate subject was born.
A birth certificate search is easiest when you know a lot of information about the subject. When you have the subject’s name, place of birth, and approximate year of birth, your search is well on the way to done. All you will need to do is locate the government agency holding a copy of the birth certificate, and place a formal request. This sometimes requires a small fee.
Most vital records offices and government public records offices maintain Web sites that describe what sorts of records they hold, and many even offer the possibility for online searching. You can also locate the correct office by checking a phone book or calling a government agency helpline in your community. Operators should be able to direct you to the appropriate office.
It is important to remember in all of this that only the vital records office of the community where the person was born will have a copy of the birth certificate. A birth certificate search of the records held where someone lived or died will not usually turn up the birth certificate unless he was born there, too. If you have contacted the vital records office and have found no records, you will need to broaden your search.
The best thing to do is to compile a list of all the places you think the subject could have been born, and collect all details you have on the person, including parents’ names and any known siblings. These details can help piece together enough information for a records office to help your birth certificate search be successful. Locating and viewing a birth certificate is usually free, but agencies can charge fees for more complicated searches, as well as for printing.
Birth certificate searches can be conducted on anyone for virtually any purpose. Most people conducting birth certificate searches do so as a part of genealogical research, to identify ancestors and to build family trees. A birth certificate search can also be for personal reasons: to replace a lost birth certificate, to find a birth certificate for a child, or to obtain an official copy of a birth certificate either for personal safekeeping or employment reasons, for instance. A birth certificate can establish citizenship in many countries, but it is never itself a sole means of identification. To prove identity, a person must usually have at least one piece of photo identification in addition to a birth certificate.