Astro-Databank:Handbook chapter 07.1

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7.1 United States Birth Certificate Policies

Each of the 50 states in the United States has specific regulations and requirements for those of us who might want to order a birth certificate. Due to Privacy laws, there are very few states where a birth certificate may be obtained without just legal cause. In the following summary "Access restricted" means that only the person, their parents or their legal representative may obtain the birth certificate.

Each state has a different name for its records office, but the offices are usually a part of the state Department of Health. Often the agency name is something similar to State Records Bureau or Bureau of Vital Statistics. Most if not all charge a fee for filling requests; these fees vary from state to state and change frequently.

In some cases, writing to the county seat where the person is born may yield better results than sending your request to the State Records Bureau or the Bureau of Vital Statistics. Most states and many counties have request forms online that can be printed. If no form is available, then send a typed request that includes the person's birth name, birth date and birth place, the mother's maiden name and the father's name. If you are writing a letter, it is wise to ask for the long form that includes time and place of birth, to note that a certified copy is not necessary, and to state that you will use the information for research purposes only. Be sure to include your check for the appropriate fee and enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope (SASE) if required. Conduct careful research before sending requests. If the birth information or parents’ names you provide does not match those in their records, some states or counties will refuse to issue a certificate and may not return your fee. Some states will fuss if you do not submit the required forms or a photo ID or if your return address does not match that on your check or your ID. Your fee will not usually be refunded if the agency conducts a search and does not find the record, or if the record has no time of birth.

With such lack of consistency, there is no guarantee that any record will have the time included. Time zones in some states, particularly in Indiana, Illinois, and Pennsylvania, have been highly unstable; request confirmation of the time zone in effect at the time when requesting the certificate, but you may not always get it. In 1968 the Federal Department of Health, Education and Welfare passed a law that the birth time be placed on the birth certificate. This does not mean that birth certificates became any easier to obtain, just that times must be on the birth certificates.

For a thorough account of United States regulations and the necessary application forms, see Edna Rowland, How To Obtain Your Birth Certificate, published by AFA. 1990. The Internet may provide more up-to-date information, though misinformation abounds. The website www.cdc.gov/nchs/howto/w2w/w2welcom.htm contains a list of all states and the issuing agency. There are now many private organizations like VitalChek that have contracted with agencies to provide birth certificates, but these usually charge more than the state or county agency and do not always provide good or prompt service. You can usually find the appropriate government agency by typing into your search engine the following “[state or county] birth certificates.” Make sure you are on the official site as some private organizations have look-like sites.

Many offices allow walk-in counter service. If you live near a county seat or state capital, check the walk-in requirements. You may have to present a photo ID. For those states without privacy laws, you can sometimes do huge amounts of research for less money than they would charge for one birth certificate ordered by mail.

The following information was compiled by Pat Taglilatelo in late 2006 as an update of the original document prepared by Lois Rodden. Where still relevant, original comments from Romy Ransom, Judy Johns, Dana Holliday, Marc Penfield, and Sue Jorgenson are included.

United States: Individual States’ Policies

The following is a summary only. Before you request a birth certificate, please refer to the state and county official websites or call their offices (assuming you can get a live person!) for more information as requirements change frequently. Remember that “access restricted” means that only those whose name is on the birth certificate, their parents or their legal representatives are able to obtain a record.

AK Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, Bureau of Vital Statistics. Records kept from January, 1913. Time not recorded 1949-68. Access restricted.
AL Alabama Center for Health Statistics. Records kept from January 1, 1908; prior to that, county records. Time may be recorded. Access restricted. Public records are open to public after 125 years back if living and 25 years back if dead. No B.C. prior to 1908; records were kept in a ledger. Time is on the B.C. only if the doctor put it on.
AR Arkansas Vital Records Clerk, Arkansas Dept of Health. Records were kept from February 1, 1914. Some areas kept records back to 1881 but without birth time. Access restricted. (For those with a legal right to a birth certificate, Romy Ransom writes, “You have to ask for the long form. From 1970 to present they have computerized copies with no time of birth.")
AZ Arizona Office of Vital Records, AZ Dept of Health Services. Records kept from July 1909; prior records kept by some counties. Time recorded from July 1909. Access restricted. Records available if the person was born 75 years ago and more.
CA California In California, it is best to write to the county office using the form made available by each county on its website. Many county offices have the word “Recorder” or “Registrar” in their title. Only individuals with legal right to do so can request a certified copy of a birth certificate. If you do not have a legal right but want a copy of a California birth certificate, you can receive a copy, with complete information, so long as you mark your request "For informational purposes only." Write to the Sacramento office for birth certificates of adopted children regardless of where in California the birth occurred. Records kept from July 1, 1905; prior to that, county records. Time usually recorded.
CO Colorado Denver Vital Records. Records kept from 1910. Time usually recorded, but inconsistent. Access restricted.
CT Connecticut Bureau of Vital Records. Records kept from July 1, 1897; prior to that, city records. Time usually recorded from 1933. Access restricted.
DC Washington D.C. Vital Records Branch, Research & Statistics Division. Time usually recorded from 1907. Access restricted.
DE Delaware Office of Vital Statistics, Division of Public Health. Records kept from January 1, 1861-December 31, 1863, and January 1, 1881-present; No records available for 1864-1880. From 1900, time usually recorded. Access restricted.

(Romy Ransom writes, “The birth certificate usually has a time on the long form which can only be obtained from the state office. County offices have computerized forms with no time of birth.)

FL Florida Office of Vital Statistics, Dept of Health. State office is only place you can get birth certificate. Records kept from April, 1865; legally required from 1899; however, records before 1917 may be incomplete. Access restricted. Times are usually on the B.C. from early 1900’s to 1949 but may not be recorded from 1949-1969 in some counties.
GA Georgia Georgia Division of Public Health, Vital Records. Access restricted. Records kept from January 1, 1919; prior to that, county records. Time recorded from January 1, 1919-June, 1945 and after December 15, 1958.
HI Hawaii Hawaii Dept of Health. Records kept from 1853. Time recorded from 1909. Access restricted unless the person was born 75 or more years ago; then the record may be available as genealogy search.
IA Iowa Iowa State Dept of Health, Vital Records Section. Records kept from July 1, 1880; legalized July 1921. Time from 1905, time records unstable. Access restricted.
ID Idaho Bureau of Vital Statistics, Dept of Health & Welfare. Records kept from July, 1911; prior to that, County records. Time of birth seldom given. Access possible from county of birth.
IL Illinois Illinois Dept of Public Health, Division of Vital Records. Records dated from January 1, 1916; prior to that, county records. Time given in standard time from 1916 but not consistently and not in every hospital. The prevailing time was legally used since April 29, 1959. Access restricted. (Romy Ransom writes, "You can get the B.C. if the person was born 75 years or more ago (death records for 20 years and more ago), as they fall in the genealogy category.)
IN Indiana State Board of Health, Vital Records. Records kept from October 1, 1907; prior to that, county records. From 1940, times were omitted from the B.C. Marc Penfield reports that no state times given prior to 1954.
KS Kansas Kansas Vital Statistics. Records kept from July 1, 1911; prior to that, county records. Time given from July 1, 1911-1948 and from 1968-present but not consistently. Access restricted.
KY Kentucky Office of Vital Statistics. Records kept from January 1, 1911 with some prior to then; time given occasionally. Access in person and by mail. Be sure to request a LONG FORM with time of birth even if using an official form. If you receive a form without a time of birth write back to ascertain if a time is available.
LA Louisiana Vital Records Section, Dept of Health. Records kept from July 1, 1914; earlier in New Orleans. Seldom have the time, more likely to record times after 1950. Records available prior to a hundred years back. Access restricted.
MA Massachusetts Registry of Vital Records. Records kept from January 1, 1896; prior to 1905, records are at the State Archives. Times not given prior to 1940 and occasionally not even then. Available in person and by mail. The hospital of birth may have a time recorded prior to 1940 but no guarantee.
MD Maryland Dept of Health, Division of Vital Records. Records kept from August 1, 1898; Baltimore from January 1, 1875. Time given from 1914. Access restricted.
ME Maine Office of Vital Statistics. Records kept from January 1, 1892; prior to then, see the Town Clerk. Records from 1892 through 1922 are held at the state archives. Time from January 1, 1968; from 1956, the time was sometimes included in the margin.
MI Michigan Office of State Registrar and Center for Health Statistics.

Access restricted. Records kept from January 1, 1867; Detroit records from 1893. Time given from 1906-1949 and 1968-present; no times on birth records from 1950-67.

MN Minnesota Minnesota Dept of Health. Records kept from January 1, 1908; prior to then, county records. Time given from 1908 until recently; now omitted. Request a non-certified birth certificate if you are not the individual or have no legal right to the information. Be sure to state that you need the time of birth. Romy Ransom writes, "Minnesota is one of those states that is or has gone to a statewide computerized system. So you can go to any county vital records office in the state and get the birth certificate for anyone born in that state. The only problem with this is that when the people inputted the birth information into the system they may or may not have put the time of birth into the system as well. What I suggest people do is call the county where the person was born (because it takes less time to get the birth certificates from the county than it does from the state office) and tell them you need a non-certified copy of the original birth certificate which includes the time of birth. The last time I checked the county offices still had the original birth certificates in their possession. The woman I spoke to did not know when those would be sent to the state vital records office. A non-family member can only get a non-certified copy.
MO Missouri Vital Statistics. Records kept from January 1, 1910. Prior to that, county records. Time given intermittently. Access restricted. No time in 1949. Judy Johns writes, "I have no idea when MO started putting birth times on the BC's. I also called the St Louis office to verify the time of birth. They checked to see that I had ordered the record, then called me back to verify the time." She was able to get Kenneth Lay’s B.C. from MO.
MS Mississippi MS State Health Dept Bureau of Vital Statistics. Records kept from November 1, 1912. Time given 1912 to 1948 and from 1968 to present but inconsistently. Access restricted.
MT Montana Bureau of Records and Statistics, State Dept of Health. Records kept from late 1907. Time given from 1919 through mid-1946 and from January 1, 1968 to present but inconsistently. Access possible for research or genealogy with photo ID. Marc Penfield has a letter from Missoula with no time on B.C. of person born in 1955.
NC North Carolina North Carolina Vital Records. Records issued from October 1, 1913 with time given on the record. Public access to non-certified records.
ND North Dakota Vital Records Program, ND State Dept of Health. Records kept from July 1, 1893, but may be incomplete. Time may or may not be recorded. Access possible.
NE Nebraska Douglas County Health Dept. Marc Penfield has an Access restricted per letter from them 7/10/01. Romy Ransom reports that you can get a non-restricted B.C. in person but you must be able to identify the person (parent’s full names). Records of those who were adopted or who underwent a sex-change are restricted records.
NH New Hampshire NH Bureau of Vital Records and Health Statistics. Records kept from 1840. State office or Town Clerk. Time recorded from 1937, inconsistently. Access restricted.
NJ New Jersey NJ Department of Health and Senior Services. Records kept from May, 1848-May 1878 in State Archives, then State Registrar. Time recorded from 1920. Access available for non-certified copies, but the fees are the highest in the country, and service is terrible and slow. It took five months for one request to be filled in 2005. Romy writes, "The best way to get a B.C. with a time of birth is to send to the state office in Trenton because many of the counties have indexed information which may or may not have a time. When a record from the State Office has no time, then there never was one. Marc Penfield has an answer from New Brunswick Health Dept that states No time for births prior to July 1963.
NM New Mexico NM Vital Statistics Program, Health Services Division. Records kept from 1920; prior records since 1880 from State office. Time usually recorded prior to 1984. Access may be possible.
NY New York Vital Records Section, NY State Dept of Health. Records kept from 1914; prior since 1880 in the City Registrar where the birth occurred. Times may be recorded as early as 1900. Access available for births prior to 75 years ago and known to be deceased. Takes two to three months.
NV Nevada State Dept of Health, Office of Vital Records. Access restricted.
OH Ohio Ohio Dept of Health, Vital Statistics Unit. Records kept from December 20, 1908; prior to that, country records. Time recorded 1908-1955, and 1968-present, no time on records 1955-68. You must request the original BC with a time of birth or they will send a computerized copy.
OK Oklahoma Oklahoma State Dept of Health. Records kept from October, 1908. Time not usually given prior to 1968. Access restricted.
OR Oregon Oregon Vital Records. Access restricted although records are open as public record after 100 years. Records kept from January 1, 1903; prior to that, State Archives. Time usually recorded.
PA Pennsylvania Vital Records, State Dept of Health Records kept from January 1, 1903; prior to that, county seat. Time inconsistently recorded. Access restricted. Pennsylvania birth times are confusing and may be recorded in standard time even though daylight time was in effect. The PA Time Project is under construction by Amanda Owen: avowen@aol.com, to investigate the morass of confusion from county to county.
RI Rhode Island Rhode Island Dept of Health. Records kept from January 1, 1853; prior to that, Town Clerk. Time recorded 1933-1956 and 1961 to present. Access restricted.
SC South Carolina Vital Records Section, Office of Vital Records & Public Health. Records kept from January 1, 1915; prior to that, Town Clerk. Time recorded 1933-1956 and 1961 to present. Access restricted.
SD South Dakota Vital Records, Dept of Health, 600 East Capitol, Pierre, SD 57501-2536. (605) 773-4961). Records kept from July 1, 1905. Time not usually recorded; not at all from 1949 to 1967. Access possible with photo ID for non-certified, informational copies that are computer generated. Request time of birth specifically.
TN Tennessee Tennessee Department of Health, Vital Records. Records kept from January 1, 1914; prior to that, County Health Dept. Time inconsistently recorded. Access available for informational use only. The state website has a form that can be used by the clerk to hand-write the information copied from the birth certificate.
TX Texas Texas Vital Statistics, Dept of Health Records kept from January 1, 1903. Time recorded from 1917. Access restricted except for records prior to 75 years ago.
UT Utah Office of Birth and Death Records. Records kept from January 1, 1905; prior to that, City Board. Time often recorded. The Mormon Church keeps extensive records available to genealogists. Access possible with photo ID but not likely.
VA Virginia Vital Records and Health Statistics. Records kept from January 1, 1853. Time recorded from June 1912. Access restricted.
VT Vermont Vermont State Vital Records Office.Records kept from January 1, 1955, prior to that, Public Records Dept or only if the doctor entered it. Access in person or by mail. (Romy Ransom in 6/2001 that Vermont is open but no times on the B.C. until about 1955.”
WA Washington Health Statistics and Assessment. Records kept from July 1, 1907; prior to that, county records. Time recorded from July 1, 1907-1948 and 1968-present. Access available by mail and in person for non-certified copies.
WI Wisconsin Wisconsin Division of Health, Vital Records. Records kept from 1814 in some cases; may be incomplete prior to October 1, 1907. Time not usually recorded. Access possible in person and by mail. (Romy Ransom writes that "non-certified copies are public … but certified copies are not in access to the public. Ask for a photocopy of the original. The county has the same records as the state office and takes less time to process.”
WV West Virginia State Dept of Health, Division of Vital Statistics. Records kept from January 1, 1917; prior to that, county records. Time recorded from January 1, 1917 but times not uniformly included. Access restricted.
WY Wyoming Vital Records Services. Records kept from July, 1909. Time seldom recorded. Access restricted.


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