How to Read a Birth Certificate

Person with gloves taking footprints of newborn child
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Children are issued birth certificates after their birth. The hospital where you give birth provides you, the parent, with a birth certificate form on which you fill out the name of your child, the date of birth, county of birth and the location of birth. You then mail the form to the county health department where your child was born so that your child’s birth is registered with your state. You will receive a certified copy of the official birth certificate in the mail several weeks later. Birth certificates will vary by state, but generally contain similar information.

Obtain a Birth Certificate

Obtain a copy of the birth certificate you wish to read.

Review the Information at the Top

Look at the top of the certificate. The state file number is the number under which the state of birth filed the birth certificate. The date filed is the date on which the state first filed the paperwork for the birth certificate, it is not the date of birth of the individual on the certificate.

Read the Child's Information

Read the section entitled “Child’s Information.” The name of the child, date of birth of the child, sex of the child, time of birth of the child, birth weight of the child, place of birth, city and county of birth are listed. The time of birth is not noted in the way that you would normally read time. For example, if the child was born at 6:04 a.m., the birth certificate will read 0604.

Read the Mother's Information

Locate the “Mother’s Information” section. The mother’s first, middle and maiden name are the names listed. Her married name is not listed on the birth certificate. The mother’s date of birth and birthplace, which includes only the state and country of her birth are listed.

Read the Father's Information

Read the “Father’s Information” section. If the mother of the child is not married, this section may or may not contain information. Paternal information is not required if the mother is an unmarried woman, though she may choose to list the father’s name if she wants to. If she is married, the name of her husband is automatically listed as the father of the child. The father’s full name, date of birth and birth place are listed.

Look for the Date of Issue

Look for the date of issue. This date is the date on which the birth certificate was mailed to the parents of the child listed on the certificate.

Look at the Bottom of the Page

Finish reading the birth certificate by looking at the bottom of the page. The signature at the bottom belongs to the state registrar at the time the birth certificate was filed. A seal appears at the bottom of the page that authenticates the birth certificate as a legal copy.

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