- how to find out what birth records are available in your ancestor’s area
- what privacy restrictions may be in place
- what substitute records may provide birth information
Step l: Gather basic information on the ancestor.
Step 2: Find out when vital records start.
You’ll need to make sure you’ve got the right place on today’s map. County borders and names changed as the nation grew: A relative born in 1902 in the town now called Allendale County, SC, would have actually started life in either Barnwell or Hampton counties, from which Allendale was formed in 1919. Use the online Atlas of Historical County Boundaries to investigate changing borders where your kin lived.
Step 3: Figure out where to look.
Copies of birth records may be at both the state and county levels, or the location may depend on the date. Some states keep recent records in the vital-records office or a health department, but transfer old records to a state archive. In Illinois, for example, birth records since January 1916 are at the state Division of Vital Records, part of the Department of Public Health. Earlier records remain in the individual counties or at the Illinois Regional Archives Depository; you can check the holdings online for your Illinois ancestor’s county.
The references mentioned in step 2 can help you learn locations of the original records. Alternatively, consult Where to Write for Vital Records. Links generally take you to the state government website for more-detailed information.
If you’re really lucky, you can find online records (as for Arizona) or at least an index that will help you request a copy of the record. Genealogy sites such as Ancestry.com, Archives.com or the free FamilySearch.org may have birth records and/or indexes; as might the state archives website or county USGenWeb site. Or run a Google search on the state, county or town and birth records genealogy.
Step 4: Make the request.