Even with the document-cluttered lives that we lead, we often seem unable to track down the ones we need when they're called for – especially older ones like birth certificates issued for Mom and Dad when they were born. Obtaining a parent's birth certificate, however, involves only a little more effort than getting your own. You'll have to prove your identity, just as you must to obtain your own birth certificate, but you'll also need to prove your relationship to your parent. All of this, including paying the fee, can be taken care of in person, by mail or online.
Who Can Get a Person's Birth Certificate?
A state vital statistics office will not give a certified copy of a birth certificate to just anyone. That's because a person's birth certificate is a primary form of identification and can be used in identity crimes like identity theft. Unlike a passport or driver's license, a birth certificate doesn't have a photo appended, so it's easier for someone to claim to be the person named in the certificate.
Generally, only the person named in the certificate and close relatives can get a certified copy of it, that is, a copy that can be used as identification for a driver's license or a passport. A parent/child relationship is classified as a close familial relationship, so generally, a person can get a copy of a parent's birth certificate. Others who can get copies of an individual's birth certificate include that person's grandparents, parents, siblings, children and sometimes grandchildren.
How to Order a Parent's Birth Certificate
You'll need to know where your parent was born before you go searching for her birth certificate. If you don't know, ask family members like grandparents, or look through old family documents. Search the city and state in question to determine the procedure for obtaining vital records. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers a page titled "Where to Write for Vital Records" with links to most states' vital records offices.
Generally, to order a parent's birth certificate, you have to appear in person at the place where the records are maintained. If you live in or near the town your parent was born in, this might work well for you. If not, there is often an option to mail in a request for a birth certificate or to order it online.
In many states, you will have to fill out a form containing an affidavit under penalty of perjury that states your relationship to the person named in the certificate. Fill it in, then take it to a notary and have your signature notarized. Carry a government-issued photo identification like a driver's license or a passport to establish your identity. You may also need to provide a copy of your own birth certificate to establish that the person whose birth certificate you are seeking was in fact your parent.
Fees for certified birth certificates generally range from $20 to around $30. You may be asked to pay by cashier's check or credit card.
- Your photo ID must be valid. If it is expired, the vital records office may deny your request for a copy of the birth certificate. Likewise, your ID should list your full name as you state it on your application and your current address.
- If you order online, you may have to provide an Internet signature swearing that you are the son or daughter of the person for whom you are requesting a birth certificate.
- If you were adopted, you may present adoption records as proof of your relationship to your adoptive parent.
- If you're seeking a certified copy of a step-parent's birth certificate, you may have to prove that you are related to him before your request can be approved. You may do this by submitting a copy of your step-parent's marriage to your legal parent or other documentation specified by the vital records office.
- If you are asked to provide your grandmother's full name, give her maiden name. This is an identifier vital records offices use in retrieving the right birth certificate.
With a Master's in English, a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, and J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's law school, Teo Spengler is up on education. She splits her home time between San Francisco and France. A perpetual student and frequent teacher, she is also a writer and world traveler. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Arizona Central, Fairmont Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites.