When you explore your genealogy, one of the first things you need to know about a person is the birth date. The birthplace helps too, of course. There are many places to find this information, and most of them have additional useful data. We’ll look at some of the possibilities here.
In the modern world the official birth record is the birth certificate or “certificate of live birth.” As such, it is a “primary source,” usually created near the time of the birth, by someone who was present. It may come in a different forms, such as a short form for public information and a long form with more details. Its availability and the information it contains vary widely from place to place and in different times, but it’s common to find much more than the name, date, and place. Here’s a partial list of what else you might see:
- the baby’s gender
- parents’ names, including the mother’s maiden name
- parents’ ages or birth dates (or approximate years of birth)
- parents’ birthplaces
- parents’ address (which can lead you to census records)
- information about the baby’s siblings
- parents’ occupations
- grandparents’ names
- the baby’s race
- the family’s religious affiliation
In some cases, birth certificates may be corrected or amended years later to show legal name changes or even, in some jurisdictions, gender changes. Sooner or later, you’ll also encounter “delayed registrations,” which are birth certificates created long after the birth and on the basis of other evidence.