Unlike some countries, there is no centralized registry of birth certification records in the United States. Each state maintains its own depository of birth records – which is either the state Health Department or the Bureau of Vital Statistics (usually a department within the Health Department).
In addition, you may find that your county of birth or even your local town clerk also stores a copy of your birth certificate, but not all do this, and often such records are kept simply for genealogical purposes. (As an aside, genealogy sites like Ancestry.com have centralized online searchable databases of birth records, but those birth record files – just like marriage and death certificates – are pulled from the state records as well as records provided by dedicated genealogy supporters, not from some central site.)
Keeping birth certificate records at a more local level was far more common 50 years ago until government officials realized they needed to provide more central, more secure storage as the population grew and people began to start moving long distances from where they were born, making walking downtown to pick up a copy of your official records less and less likely an option. Plus local natural disasters, such as fires and floods, made improved, secure storage and access a must.
Indeed, before the early 20th century often the only record of a birth was kept in the family Bible or nowhere at all! It wasn’t until the Social Security Administration was created in 1935 that many people saw a need to even have a birth certificate.
Sometimes people think that a copy of their birth certificate is kept at the hospital where they were born. Don’t count on it. While the hospital’s records may include a record of your birth and the older you are, the less likely this is – it is unlikely the staff could find your record or even has the time to look because older records generally do not get transferred to digital format. Unlike at the state level, where a record of your birth is a matter of official record, the record of your birth at the hospital where you were born is simply a medical record.
Other people think that the US Census Bureau keeps records of birth certificates. After all, older census records show people’s names, addresses, ages and so forth. As a result, the Census Bureau regularly gets requests for copies of birth certificates. However, the Census Bureau has never kept or even had copies of people’s birth certificates.
Birth certificates are officially filed in the state of your birth, and that’s whom you ask to ask if you want a copy of your birth certificate.
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