A fingerprint form, or fingerprint card, is a piece of paper that is used to record an individual’s fingerprints. Agencies, such as police departments and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), use fingerprints to identify and track criminals. In addition, businesses and non-profits may request background checks that involve fingerprints before placing individuals in sensitive positions. For example, the Boy Scouts of America requests background checks before allowing individuals to volunteer to work with Scouts.
Humans has been using fingerprints to seal documents for thousands of years. It was not until the late 1880s that a scientific study conducted by England’s Sir Francis Galton indicated that every fingerprint is unique, although others had postulated this theory since as early as the 14th century. By 1903, the use of fingerprinting had spread to the United States (US). The FBI was one of the first agencies in the US to adopt the new science.
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Fingerprints begin forming in the womb as pressure is applied on a baby’s fingertips. Generally, fingertips include a series of ridges that form patterns called loops, whorls, and arches. Factors such as the numbers, sizes, and arrangements of the loops, whorls, and arches are an important part of what makes each individual’s fingerprints unique. In addition, minutiae — tiny characteristics that can only be seen using magnification — are also used to help identify fingerprints. Fingerprints do not age over time.
Before computers, comparing a fingerprint form with another fingerprint card was difficult and time consuming. A person had to manually check one fingerprint form against another card — a process that could take days without a guarantee of any results at all. While the use of computers to compare a fingerprint form with another still does not guarantee a match, the process moves quicker. In addition, the use of computers has significantly increased the available fingerprint data base.
Fingerprinting is no longer being used only for background checks or to track criminals. Child fingerprinting is becoming more common as parents decide that they want to have records readily available in the event that their child should disappear. Some parents choose to purchase a fingerprint kit to use at home. Others check with their local government or police departments to see if there are services available related to child fingerprinting. Parents should keep their child’s fingerprint form in a safe, easy-to-access location, such as with the rest of their important legal papers.