Q. My grandmother was born in South Carolina in 1910—before the state began keeping birth records in 1915. But I’m pretty sure she had a passport. Didn’t you need a birth certificate for that?
A. Your grandmother may have applied for a “delayed birth certificate.” Many states—especially those in the South—were relatively late to adopt state-level birth registrations, which created a problem later in the 20th century when people needed such documentation to apply for passports, Social Security or railroad pensions. As a substitute, individuals produced other proof of age, such as census and voter records, school documents, naturalization papers, family Bibles and affidavits signed by relatives. The state then issued after-the-fact birth certificates.
The good news is privacy restrictions on delayed birth certificates are typically looser than for standard birth certificates. You might even be able to skip the state bureaucracy entirely: The Family History Library has 42 microfilm reels of South Carolina delayed birth certificates, and you can search the catalog at <www.familysearch.org> to see if your grandmother’s birthplace is included. If so, rent the film to view at your local Family History Center.
Want more genealogy Q&A? You’ll find it in the book 101 Brick Wall Busters: Solutions to Overcome Your Genealogical Challenges from the editors of Family Tree Magazine (also available as a digital download).
More great genealogy resources from Family Tree Magazine: