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Preserving Birth Certificates

by Kathryn Rateliff Barr, studioD

A birth certificate helps you prove your identity, apply for government benefits, complete official paperwork and enroll in school. Your birth certificate can become damaged if you do not properly take care of the document. Multiple options exist for preserving your documents in a safe, secure and climate-controlled environment to ensure access to the document whenever necessary.

Archival Sleeves

Lamination was once considered a safe and secure method to preserve documents, but the pressure and heat process damaged many documents, according to the Smithsonian Institution. Store your documents in archival sleeves constructed of polyester, polypropylene or polyethylene plastic sleeves that will not cause acid damage to your birth certificate. Office supply stores carry these sleeves, but you must read the labels to ensure you don’t purchase sleeves made with cellulose acetate by mistake. Acetate degrades to form an acid. Archival suppliers also carry acid-free sleeves and will ensure you have the appropriate sleeve for your needs.

Home Storage

If you keep your original birth certificate at home, store it flat in a room that has controlled and stable temperature and humidity levels, advises the Antique Trader. When handling the document, wash and dry your hands and wipe dust off the certificate with a soft brush. Do not staple, paper clip, tape or fold the document before storing. Store the sleeved document flat in an archival box or filing cabinet to protect it from the light. Putting the birth certificate in with other important documents such as wills, marriage and death certificates and tax returns makes it easy to grab them in the event of a disaster where you must get out of the house quickly.

Permanent Storage

Store at least one certified copy of your birth certificate in a safety deposit box where it is safe from damage and thieves, suggests Norton, a security software company. This ensures you have quick access to a copy if your home is destroyed. Some people will scan and store a copy of the birth certificate on their computer for more immediate use. Ensure that your computer has appropriate safeguards such as strong password protections before you save the copy there, and completely scrub the hard drive before disposing of the computer. Encrypting the document file is also a good safety procedure.

Displaying Birth Certificates

Some baby books provide a place for you to display a birth certificate. If you make use of that feature, use a copy, not your original birth certificate. Also consider that the baby book is not a secure environment and could allow an identity thief access to important information. A better option could include copying the birth date, name and parent information by hand and adding footprints to the page using a standard ink pad.

About the Author

Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.

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