How to Apply for a Birth Certificate

by Nannette Richford

There is no question about it, your birth certificate is one of the most important documents you will ever need. Not only does it verify your legal name and date of birth, it contains other vital information, such as the names of your parents and place of birth. Birth certificates are a required form of identification for social service agencies, government programs and passports, and can provide valuable information in tracing your family heritage. In the event that you lose or misplace yours or need a record of the birth of a family member, you can get a duplicate copy for a few dollars from your local office of vital statistics.

Contact the office of vital statistics in the state in which the birth occurred and ask where the records are located. Many states maintain records of live births in more than one location. As a general rule, recent records are maintained by local municipalities or county at offices, and older records reside at the state level.

Contact the appropriate office. Ask for guidance in requesting a duplicate birth certificate. You will be required to provide identification and to pay a small replacement fee.

Ask about the forms of identification you will need. Some states require your driver's license number (or a photocopy of the photo ID) and issuing state. (See Resources for individual state requirements.) You will also be asked to state your relationship to the person whose birth certificate you seek and the reason for the request. Generally you are limited to requesting the birth certificate of yourself, your children or spouse, siblings or parents. You may also be able to obtain a certified copy of deceased ancestors for genealogical purposes.

Write a letter to the appropriate office stating your request. Include as much information as you have about the name, date and place of birth of the person whose birth certificate you seek. Include nicknames and variant spellings. This is especially important for genealogy searches dealing with older records, as documentation was often hand-written and errors in spelling were fairly common.

Include a check for the appropriate fee and all forms of requested identification. Check that you have included all necessary documents and mail to the appropriate office. You should receive a copy of the birth certificate within two weeks, although time varies from state to state.

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Items you will need

  • Full name
  • Date of birth
  • Place of birth
  • Identification (varies)


  • Make a copy of your letter for your own records.


  • You can also order your birth certificate online, but you will incur additional fees on top of the fee to replace the birth certificate. You can avoid unnecessary costs by requesting the certificate by mail.

About the Author

Nannette Richford is an avid gardener, teacher and nature enthusiast with more than four years' experience in online writing. Richford holds a Bachelor of Science in secondary education from the University of Maine Orono and certifications in teaching 7-12 English, K-8 General Elementary and Birth to age 5.

Photo Credits

  • straymuse/sxc.hu