How do I get Birth Records?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

There are a number of ways to get vital records, like birth records and marriage certificates. Obtaining these are usually associated with a small fee, and not all records are obtainable. Many countries didn’t begin keeping civil records of birth until the early 20th century. In some countries if people know time and location of birth, they might be able to find church registers that note baptism, but this is not quite the same as civil or state produced birth records.

The process for btaining a birth certificate will vary depending on the jurisdiction.
The process for btaining a birth certificate will vary depending on the jurisdiction.

Plenty of websites offer people the convenience of not having to do much looking to get birth records. People should be aware these companies charge an extra fee for their services, usually about $5-$10 US Dollars (USD) for records of US citizens. It is possible to obtain the same records without this extra money. Through the website, people can assess a page that will lead them to additional pages for all states or territories in the US offering birth records. Each state page gives precise information on how to obtain birth, death, and marriage certificates, and the charge for each, which is usually between $10-20 USD.

Original birth certificates are typically issued within the first few days of a baby's birth.
Original birth certificates are typically issued within the first few days of a baby's birth.

If people want local birth records, the process is even easier. Most people will simply need to visit or call their County Clerk Office in order to obtain them. Sometimes these offices have online sites or telephone ordering.

International birth certificates may be a little harder to find. Again, it’s important to understand when a country actually began to keep record of its citizens in this manner. Any disruptions in the country could have destroyed some records, so it is not always possible to go that far back in history for vital records. Charges can be much steeper when using a service, too.

Yet records still may be fairly inexpensive if ordered through the country’s record agency, like the General Register Office of England. If possible, instead of going through a service, plan on finding the country’s record keeping agency instead, as this is the cheapest method for obtaining birth records. This might be a little harder if the country has a different language than the one a person speaks. In this case, people may want to consider a vital records service, or find a friend conversant in the language to search for them.

When people are looking for birth records for purposes of documenting genealogy, a good place to start may be checking with family members to see if anyone already possesses these records. Birth certificates and marriage certificates often get saved, and passed down in inherited furniture or family bibles or other religious texts. A record keeper in the family may have several generations of records, and could save people the trouble of ordering more.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


@Grivusangel -- Cabbage leaf. Funny. But I understand. When you run into problems is when you're doing genealogy and the very courthouse records you need burned up with the courthouse in 1900. Very, very discouraging. Sometimes, you can get around that, if you can locate a baptismal record from a church, or maybe a family Bible.

I'm still looking to see what happened to my great-great-grandmother. She dropped off the face of the earth after 1870, and of course, the records that would tell me what happened burned up in a courthouse fire in 1897.


In Alabama, we can get birth certificates at the county health department. I think it's about $12 USD, or was the last time I checked.

My husband is from Ohio, and I was able to get his birth certificate, but I can't remember how we did it. I think I had to write the state bureau of vital statistics. I had to know his date of birth, Social Security number and the hospital where he was born.

I really think we should be able to get a free birth certificate. It's kind of sad I have to pay the state a fee to get certified proof of my birth! How did they think I got here? My mom found me under the old cabbage leaf? Disgusting.

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