Thursday, March 01, 2018

Women's History Month 2018: Birth Certificates

Birth certificates seem like a great place to start our look at the records  that tell her story. While government issued birth certificate are not available for all times and places, when they are available they provide us with information that situates a woman with her birth family at a specific place and time.

Information you may find on a birth certificate include:

  • Child's name
  • Place of birth (city, county, state)
  • Date of birth
  • Gender
  • Whether a single or twin birth
  • Parent's names (mother's maiden name)
  • Parent's Age/Race
  • Parent's Occupation
  • Parent's birthplace
  • Number of children born to mother
  • Whether mother is married (depending on when birth certificate issued)
  • Midwife/attending physician name

Now this information differs according to place and time. The above is from Arizona in 1919. Below is a birth register for Boston, Massachusetts in 1880. This earlier example, while not as detailed, still includes information about the parents and where they were born.

"Massachusetts Births, 1841-1915," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 1 March 2016), 004002286 > image 205 of 966; Massachusetts Archives, Boston.

Time and place is important to consider. Certain periods of time lent itself to gathering specific pieces of information like the legitimacy of children born to the mother.

Don't forget that birth certificates aren't just great evidence for the birth of a child, but they can also help you better understand the mother and find information about her maiden name and the number of children she's had.

The idea that everyone should have a birth certificate is a relatively recent phenomena. It wasn't too long ago that people rarely, if ever, needed a birth certificate. But once Social Security comes into play, and kids have to prove age for school, and couples have to prove their age for marriage, we start seeing that it's vital to have that proof. Now there was something that could be done for those without a birth certificate. That solution will be discussed tomorrow.

GenealogyBank Blog - Genealogy 101 #8 Birth Certificates

Ancestry Wiki - Red Book

Online Birth & Marriage Records Indexes for the USA

Field, Corinne T, and Nicholas L. Syrett (Eds.). Age in America: The Colonial Era to the Present. New York: New York University Press, 2015

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