How do I get a Birth Certificate Replacement?

C. Mitchell

Ordering official copies of a birth certificate, whether as a replacement for a lost or damaged original or simply as a means of obtaining additional copies, is generally a straightforward procedure. In most countries, births are recorded and stored by a public records office or an office of vital records established at a national or state level. Original birth certificates are issued by those offices to new parents within a few weeks of a child’s birth, but a copy is always held. Replacements are usually available at any time by contacting the appropriate office, placing a formal request, and paying a fee.

Birth certificates are legal records of birth.
Birth certificates are legal records of birth.

Birth certificates are legal records of birth, and as such they are managed and maintained in most countries by government agencies. In smaller countries like the United Kingdom, a single agency, the Home Office Identity and Passport Service, maintains birth records for all citizens. In larger countries like the United States and Canada, birth certificates are managed at more localized levels. Each U.S. state has its own system for handling birth records, and in some states the records are handled by individual counties. In Canada, each province maintains records of births. The same agency that issued an original birth certificate is also responsible for handling requests for a birth certificate replacement.

A birth certificate contains information regarding the date, time and place of birth for an individual.
A birth certificate contains information regarding the date, time and place of birth for an individual.

The first step in ordering a birth certificate replacement, then, is determining where the birth certificate is held in its original form. This can be a simple inquiry if you know the birth certificate subject’s place of birth. If, however, that place of birth is unknown, more research is required.

All public records offices and vital records office birth records are publicly searchable, and the advent of electronic database technology means that results can increasingly be narrowed not only by date, but also by name, parents' name, or other identifying details. The best bet is to contact all of the offices where you think the subject could have been born, and see if you can find the birth certificate based on the details that you have. Some offices will charge a small fee for running lengthy searches.

Each office has its own protocol governing how a birth certificate replacement can be issued. Birth certificates are public records in almost every country, however, which means that the hoops one must jump through to get an official copy re-issued are few. Most of the time, all that is required is identification of the desired record along with the payment of a printing fee.

There are not usually any requirements placed on who may order a birth certificate replacement. Many people order birth certificate replacements for relatives long deceased for genealogical purposes. Still others engage in birth certificate research to rebuild maps of biological families, or to search for siblings. Birth certificates in most places list information on parents along with details such as time and place of birth.

There need not be any relationship between the searcher and the subject for a birth certificate replacement to be issued, and there is not usually any way that a person can prohibit another from obtaining copies of his or her birth certificate. Birth certificates do not generally contain any sensitive personal identifying information, and are not considered private documents. Birth certificates can be used as forms of identification in some jurisdictions, but usually only when also accompanied by photo identification.

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