Q: I’ve determined the information on my own birth certificate is incorrect. Should I submit the correct information to the state so my descendants aren’t as confused as I was?
A: That would be a thoughtful service to future genealogists — but it might not be easy. Every state has its own rules regarding corrections to birth certificates, so you should consult with the vital records office in the state where you were born. We checked with Arizona, for example, which is notable for making PDFs of historical birth and death certificates available online. There, making a simple correction to your own information — fixing a misspelling, such as “Micheal” for “Michael” — requires an affidavit from you and documentation from the first 10 years of your life establishing the corrected fact. If there’s a name change (i.e., your birth certificate reads “Michael John” but you go by “John” and want your record to match), you’ll have to go to court.
Fixing information on your birth certificate about either of your parents, at least in Arizona, requires you to supply the parent’s birth certificate from the issuing state. Arizona needs the original certificate, which will be copied and returned to you. Information that you’ve determined is incorrect through research not reflected on the person’s birth certificate may be difficult or impossible to correct on your own birth certificate.
From the November 2011 issue of Family Tree Magazine
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