Ancestors’ Birth Records—How To Find And Analyze Them

An old grey-scale photograph of a couple with two small children

Trying to find an ancestor’s birth record to build your family tree? We’re here to help! We hope this blog answers all your questions related to birth records and why it’s impossible to locate them at times.

Do The Birth Records You’re Looking for Even Exist?

Civil registrations were introduced in different countries at different points in time. For most, it was the 1800s, however, in the US, vital records came about much later. They didn’t start in all states at the same time either, as many didn’t make civil registrations a thing until the end of the 19th century. Even then, there wasn’t complete compliance, so there is a significant chance that the birth records you’re looking for simply don’t exist.

It’s also worth remembering, that at times, birth registrations were only made at the town or county level. There was no coordination at the national level for vital records registrations, so, the statewide civil registration also started at different times in all states.

Helpful Tips to Keep In Mind When Searching For Birth Records

Even when you’re sure the birth records exist, and you start searching for them, you’ll realize that some records and sources seem impossible to find. Very often, these are indispensable resources like ancestors’ birth records. There are many reasons these documents are more elusive than others; keep these simple factors in mind as you look for them.

  • There could have been a formal or informal name change that you’re missing out on. Try different name variations to see if they’ve been using a nickname, middle name, or perhaps a different spelling.
  • If the ancestor’s name is too common, try looking up their sibling’s birth record instead. The information from the sibling’s certificate may help you narrow down the search.
  • You could also try searching them using their parents’ names.
  • There could be a case of illegitimacy, so try searching using the mother’s maiden surname.
  • Widen the time frame you’re looking at. They may not be born in the exact year you’re looking at.

How to Make the Most Out Of the Birth Records You Find

An old grey-scale photograph of a woman with a small girl


Once you finally find your ancestor’s birth records, you can begin your analysis. First, understand that the information you find in a birth record will depend on where the birth record was created. Some birth certificates can have your ancestor’s name, date of birth, place of birth, parent’s names, and maybe even where the parents were born. The records may even have details on the siblings’ births.

There are also birth records that include things like family addresses, ages of parents, and even their occupations. Ultimately, it really just comes down to luck. If you’re lucky enough, the birth record of your ancestor may offer excellent leads to propel your family research into the next phase. If not, it’ll most likely still give you some information you may not have had before that you can add to your family tree for that particular ancestor.


If you’re struggling to find a birth record, get in touch with our team at DavisDNA And Family Research. We offer traditional and genetic genealogy services and can help you complete your family tree.

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