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How To Read A Delayed Birth Certificate

When researching your family tree, one of the most important things to establish is an ancestor’s date of birth. An ancestor’s birth records can tell you a lot about the times and culture they lived in, as well as their birth order compared to other family members. But, during your search, you may have noticed that some of your older ancestors have a delayed certificate of birth instead of one issued during their actual birth date.

What is a delayed certificate of birth, and why would some people get their births noted so late? Learn more about why delayed certificates exist, the different details you can get from a delayed birth certificate, and where you can find them.

What Is A Delayed Birth Certificate?

A delayed birth certificate is simply a birth record that was applied for and made several years after a person’s actual date of birth. States didn’t always require registrations of live births in the past, so until pre-World War I, many people only relied on family records such as their family Bible to track birthdates and family trees.

Eventually, birth certificates became mandatory documents for work and social services, such as passports and pension benefits. So, what some people did if they didn’t have a certificate was to apply for a delayed certificate of birth.

In applying for these delayed certificates, people would have to supply other information that could prove their family ties, place of birth and residence, and identities. This meant that, apart from the certificate of delayed birth itself, these documents would have supporting records and even photographs attached to them.


Why Would Someone Have A Delayed Birth Certificate?

While birth certificates nowadays are issued as soon as a baby is born, these registrations weren’t mandatory in the past. Many births in the past were home births, and for families living in remote or rural places, going to the nearest court to register a birth may not have been a priority or even possible with limited resources.

Another reason for a delay in regular, compliant recording is that different states started formally registering births and issuing certificates for recordkeeping at different years. For example, North Carolina didn’t begin requiring birth certificates until 1913, and Nevada only started registrations in 1911.

It wasn’t until the years immediately after World War I that counties consistently recorded and issued birth certificates. If you can’t find a regular birth certificate for your ancestor, check the date when your ancestor’s home state started recording births.

Note as well if your ancestor had other government records, such as an entry in the Social Security Death Index or a record of passport ownership. If they were able to get these documents and benefits, they’d likely gotten a delayed certificate of birth as part of the process.

Useful Information In Delayed Birth Certificates

A delayed certificate of birth contains the standard information that you can find in a regular birth certificate, such as:

However, delayed certificates of birth were typically applied for by people when they were already of age. As evidence of birth, origins, and the identity of the applicant, delayed birth certificates would also contain the following information:

  • Married name
  • Social Security Number
  • Death records
  • Signature of the applicant
  • Name(s) of the applicant’s child/children, if any
  • Other information about the applicant’s child/children, such as current residence
  • Existence of a family Bible
  • Place of burial of the applicant’s parents
  • Church records
  • Divorce records
  • Voting registrations
  • School records
  • Physical descriptions and photos of the applicant
  • Mailing address at the time of application

In many ways, a delayed birth certificate contains other family stories and useful information that you simply can’t find in a regular certificate. These records can tell you about other generations apart from your ancestor, so don’t worry if you can’t find a birth certificate. Your ancestor may have a delayed certificate of birth that may prove even more helpful in researching your genealogy.


Where You Can Find A Delayed Birth Certificate

If you’re wondering how to get a delayed birth certificate, there are three main places where you can find these valuable records. Here’s a quick explanation of each one:

Online Resources

Try starting your search online at sites like Family Search and for birth records, including delayed certificates of birth. These websites have collections of different kinds of records, such as marriage bonds, death records, and census records. You can use these digitally archived documents to fill in your family tree or cross-reference any information you’ve already uncovered during your search.

State Repositories

Depending on the time period, another good place to search for an ancestor’s delayed birth certificate is a local state archive or genealogical society. Some genealogical societies have preserved these early vital records or even published books that compile these records.

Your Ancestor’s Local Jurisdiction

Lastly, your ancestor’s local jurisdiction may have physical or digitally archived copies of these records. Go to the county clerk in your ancestor’s hometown or their county of residency before death and request a copy. 

Note that the local court archives in some places may be holding on to these records instead of the county clerk, so double-check there as well.


Learn More About Your Ancestors To Learn More About Yourself

By delving into an ancestor’s delayed birth certificate, you can uncover valuable insights like the existence of a family Bible, their married name, and their place of birth. It may even contain photos, family stories, and other important documents. All this information can help you connect with your roots and gain a better understanding of your personal history.

If you’re curious about your family origins, another great way to learn more is by restoring old photographs. Take your old family photos to a reputable photo restorer like Image Restoration Center, and share these with your relatives. You might be pleasantly surprised by what you discover from these photos and anecdotes!