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How do I get a copy of my birth certificate?

Discover the different ways to get a copy of a birth certificate.

To acquire a copy of one's birth certificate, an individual should contact their state's vital record office. [©Shutterstock, 2010]
©Shutterstock, 2010
To acquire a copy of one's birth certificate, an individual should contact their state's vital record office.

There are many reasons why a person might need a copy of a birth certificate: to enter school, for a new job, to get a driver's license or passport, to research a family tree, to get Social Security benefits. This article outlines how to get a copy of a birth certificate.

Birth Certificates and Vital Records

A birth certificate typically includes information like the person's name, date of birth, place of birth, mother's maiden name and father's name. Some birth certificates include additional information about the person's parents, like their addresses, birthplaces, race and occupations.

State governments usually maintain the records of people who were born, died, married or divorced in that state. These types of records are called vital records. State offices that house these records are often called vital records or vital statistics offices. In some cases, vital records are filed in city or county offices.

The first step in obtaining a copy of a birth certificate is determining the state of the person's birth. That's easy for individuals looking for their own birth certificate, but people looking for records to complete a family tree might have to do some research to find the state of birth for one of their relatives.

Contact the Vital Records Office

After determining which state should have the birth certificate, find out how to contact its vital records office. The National Center for Health Statistics' Where to Write for Vital Records list includes the contact information for each state's vital records office, as well as the offices for American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. It also includes links for finding birth records of U.S. citizens who were born in foreign countries, alien children adopted by U.S. citizens, and those born on vessels or aircraft on the high seas.

Those who want a certified copy of a birth certificate can write to or visit the state's vital statistics office. The Where to Write for Vital Records list includes links to each state's contact information. Most states provide information on the years for which records are available, the fees for certified copies of birth certificates, and how long it will take to receive a copy of a birth certificate.

To send a written request for a copy of a birth certificate, the National Center for Health Statistics recommends typing or clearly printing all names and addresses in the letter. The letter should include the full name of the person whose birth certificate is being requested, the person's sex, his or her parents' names (including the mother's maiden name), the full birth date (month, day and year), and the place of birth (city/town, county, state). Also include the reason for requesting a copy of the birth certificate, your relationship to the person on the birth certificate, and your daytime phone number.

Finally, include a check or money order payable to the records office (in the correct amount for the number of copies requested).

Order a Birth Certificate Online

Many states also allow people to order a birth certificate online. Applications are available on states' Web sites, and fees can be paid with a credit card.

Use a Service Provider

Another option for getting a copy of a birth certificate is to order one through a document services provider. One such company is VitalCheck. The company partners with government agencies and promises secure online ordering and quick turnaround. To order a copy of a birth certificate, first enter the city, state and county of birth; birth date; and reason for ordering. For those looking for a copy of a birth certificate for a person born in a foreign country, the VitalCheck Web site also has a helpful list of International Agencies to contact for vital records information. The company charges a fee for its services.

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