Birth records offer lots of valuable information to genealogists, and in many cases, you can find them for free. Knowing where to look can save you money and help you fill in some of the blanks in your family tree.
Four Free Resources for Birth Records
Birth records can offer a wealth of details about your ancestors and their lives. Information included depends on the era and location of the birth, but you may be able to find out the birth names of the parents, details about the parents' lives, ages of the parents, and the number of other children in the family. Fortunately, there are a few resources for finding this information free of charge.
The information on USGenWeb is maintained by volunteer genealogists all over the country. In many cases, people have transcribed state and county birth records, allowing you to search this information online. There's no guarantee that your family's information will be online, but new records are added constantly.
Here's how to perform a search:
- Examine your research to identify the state, and if possible, the county, where your ancestor was born.
- Click on the appropriate state.
- Type in part of all of your ancestor's name.
- Select the county if you know it.
- Select the type of birth record you want. This may include vital records like birth certificates, family Bibles, and newspaper announcements.
- Click "Search."
FamilySearch.org is a genealogy website maintained by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and it has a great selection of historical records for almost all states. You can browse the records for your ancestor's state or search for a specific record.
Here's how you can search for your ancestor's birth records:
- Click on the state record collection of your choice.
- Enter your ancestor's birth name.
- Click on "birth" as a life event.
- Enter the birthplace and year if you know them.
- Click "Search."
Family Tree Legends
Family Tree Legends is a genealogy software company which offers a few genealogy databases on its website. While some databases are only for customers to use, there are several that you can search for free. Birth record databases for California and Texas are available for free.
Here's how to search:
- Select the database you'd like to search and click on it.
- Enter your ancestor's last name and any other helpful information, including first name, birth date, gender, and county.
- Click "Search."
If the ancestor was born before government certificates were issued, you may be able to find a baptism registry in a church. These registries will list the parents' names, the birth date and the date of baptism. They may also list godparents, which may be a valuable clue for possible family members of the mother or father of the baby.
You can contact the church where you believe the baptism took place, and ask for a search of their records. Published copies of church records may also be available through your local library or a genealogy library. There are a few church registries online, such as The Records of the Reformed Dutch Church of Albany, New York, 1683-1809.
Although you'll have to pay to order a copy of a birth record from most states, you can often access these records free of charge if you go in person to search. The National Archives and Records Administration maintains a list of all the state archives with contact information for each one.
Here's how you can use them to further your research:
- Contact the appropriate person via email or phone to make an appointment.
- Compile as much information as possible about your ancestor before going to the state archives. This will make your search easier and help you make the most of your time there.
- Follow the searching procedure outlined by the archives.
- Use a scanner or record information about your ancestor in your genealogy notebook. In some cases, you can also take a digital photo of the record.
More Ways to Find Out Birth Information
You can also find birth information indirectly by accessing other types of free genealogy resources. Consider some of these ideas.
Read Death Records
Death records, many of which are available free of charge, can include great information about an individual's birth. Keep in mind that these records often reflect information provided by family members at the time of the person's death, so they are not as reliable as birth certificates and similar documents. However, if you can't find the birth record you need, death records a great place to start.
Look Up Census Records
Although census records usually won't provide an exact birth date for an individual, most do include the place and year of birth. This can give you a starting point. Some census years are available free of charge.
Read Newspaper Archives
Old newspaper archives are another great resource. In some cases, you can find notices of a child's birth in the newspaper. You'll also find information about an individual's birth in his obituary.
Access Military Records
Looking up free military records is another way to indirectly find out information about an ancestor's birth. If your family member served in the military, his service record should include a birth date.
Add a Generation to Your Tree
No matter how you decide to search for birth records, you'll be amazed by the wealth of information contained in these documents. Use the details you find to add one more generation to your family tree or fill in the blanks about your family's history.