5 Tips for Finding Birth Records

by Amy Johnson Crow

Posted on February 20, 2014

You know your ancestor was born; you're living proof of that! Sometimes, however, it can be a little difficult to find his or her birth record. Here are five tips to help you find it:

1. Make Sure That State Was Keeping Birth Records Then

Not every state started keeping civil birth records at the same time. Towns in Connecticut, for example, started keeping birth by 1650; Illinois counties didn't start until around 1877. You can find information about vital records (including births) on the Ancestry.com wiki. (Do a search for <state> vital records.)

2. Check the Collections on Archives.com

While some states haven't made birth records available on the Internet, Archives.com continually adds more records for our members. Check the Collections page to see if Archives.com has the records covering the places and dates you need. Also, be sure to keep following this blog, Facebook, or Twitter for announcements of new collections.

3. Try Searching Without a First Name

Unlike today, it used to be possible to have a birth record without naming the child. It's not unusual to see a child listed as "infant of <parents' names>." If you know the location and year of the birth, try searching with the location, year, and just the surname.


This birth index shows children named as "Inf. of A. B. Miller."

4. Try Searching With Just First and Middle Initials

Just because Grandpa called himself John Henry Jones doesn't meant his name was recorded that way. It might have been recorded with just his first and middle initials. Try searching for J H Jones instead.

5. Pull the Ol' Switcheroo

Names can be surprisingly flexible. People have been known to switch their first and middle names. Not finding your John Henry Jones? Try searching for Henry John Jones. 

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