How to Get a Parent's Birth Certificate

by Teo Spengler

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.

About the Author

Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Spengler splits her time between French Basque Country and California.