1. Parenting
Introduction to Genealogy
Lesson 4b: Birth Records
 Intro to Genealogy:
 Lesson Four
• Course FAQ
• Course Outline

• Why Vital Records?
• Birth Records
• Marriage Records 
• Death Records
• Divorce Records
• How to Obtain Vital Records
• Where to Find Vital Records
• Source Citations
• Putting it All Together
• Lesson 4: Quiz

 Interactive Classroom

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Get Help with Lesson 4

Birth records are primary source records because they are completed at, or close to, the time of the birth by someone who was present at the birth. A birth certificate is usually signed by the doctor or midwife who attended the birth, though that is not always the case. Privacy laws often make birth records the most difficult vital records to obtain.

In general, there are three types of birth certificates:

  • Original - the record filed at birth

  • Amended - a birth record which has been revised from the original to reflect corrections or new information

  • Delayed - a certificate issued years after the birth because an original birth certificate was not filed.


What information will a birth certificate provide? This will vary widely by location and time period. In general, vital records forms usually allow space for the following information but are not consistently filled in by the users. 

Birth records usually contain:

  • name of child 

  • race of child

  • gender of child

  • date and place of birth

  • mother's name (sometimes including maiden name)

  • father's name

and may contain: 

  • mother's age, race, occupation and place of birth

  • father's age, race, occupation and place of birth

  • number of children in family

  • number this child is in family

  • witnesses to the birth

The information about the birth itself is usually provided by the attending physician or midwife and can be considered a primary source. Information about the parents, other children, etc. is usually provided by the parents and isn't quite as reliable as it is provided years after the events occurred.

Next page > Marriage Records



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