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Old 10-19-2006, 03:45 PM
Ins&Outs&What-have-yous Ins&Outs&What-have-yous is offline
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When did birth certificates become standard and/or required in the U.S.?

Depending on their location of birth, some people in the 19th century had a birth certificate (issued by a church or some other organization) while many people did not.

When did birth certificates become required in the U.S.? Is their a federal law or mandate related to birth certificates? I am guessing that certificates of birth became standard during the depression since that's when social security was introduced, but I want to know for certain.

I searched the old threads here on the SDMB and several search engines but most results pertain to questions about genealogy or how to find birth certificates rather than origins or requirements or laws related to the matter. Also, Wikipedia does not discuss the history/laws/origins of US birth certificates . Your help (with cites) is appreciated.
Old 10-20-2006, 10:22 AM
Ins&Outs&What-have-yous Ins&Outs&What-have-yous is offline
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< bump >

Anyone have any input?
Old 10-20-2006, 06:36 PM
Walloon Walloon is offline
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I'm a professional genealogist, so this is familiar territory for me. No, there is no federal law requiring everyone to have a birth certificate. Vital records laws are state-level concerns. The U.S. Department of Health has put out recommended standards for vital records, but they are only recommendations.

The pattern in most states was that birth certificates were kept by the town or county, and not until the early 20th century was there a coordinated statewide system of birth certificate registration. The last states to implement a statewide system of birth certificate registrations: Mississippi in 1912; North Carolina in 1913; Tennessee, Arkansas and Louisiana in 1914; South Carolina in 1915; Illinois in 1916; West Virginia in 1917; Georgia in 1919; Maine in 1923; Florida in 1963.

However, the existance of system of birth registration does not imply that registration was required. As far as I know, even today no state requires that all births must be registered. Registration is voluntary. However, without a birth certificate, a child cannot get a Social Security number, and without a Social Security number the children cannot be declared a dependent on federal tax forms.

Your guess about Social Security is correct. The first group of retirees eligible for age-related retirement benefits came in 1940, three years after the first Social Security taxes were collected. Many of these retirees, born in the 1870s, were unable to submit a birth certificate to verify their age, because they never had one. So a flurry of delayed birth certificates were created using secondary sources.
Old 06-08-2016, 07:35 AM
chrijeff chrijeff is offline
Join Date: Jun 2016
Posts: 1
History of birth certificates

I was looking for an answer to this very question. This may not have been on the Web when you asked it, but if you're still interested, here is part of a dissertation:

[copyrighted text removed]

All of which certainly makes a lot of sense to me. Of course, births had been registered by parish churches in New England from the beginning (and probably also in areas heavily settled by New Englanders), and the family record at the front of the family Bible is a well-known tradition; but these had little to do with government.

Last edited by engineer_comp_geek; 06-08-2016 at 09:00 AM. Reason: copyrighted text removed
Old 06-08-2016, 09:03 AM
engineer_comp_geek engineer_comp_geek is offline
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Moderator Note

Welcome to the SDMB, chrijeff.

While it is ok to post snippets from a research paper that has been published online, posting the entire paper goes a bit beyond fair use. I have removed the article from your post.

For those who are interested, the paper in question may be found here:

Last edited by engineer_comp_geek; 06-08-2016 at 09:04 AM.
Old 06-08-2016, 10:06 AM
PastTense PastTense is online now
Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 6,328
To get Social Security
404.716. Type of evidence of age to be given.

(a) Preferred evidence. The best evidence of your age, if you can obtain it, is either: a birth certificate or hospital birth record recorded before age 5; or a religious record which shows your date of birth and was recorded before age 5.

(b) Other evidence of age. If you cannot obtain the preferred evidence of your age, you will be asked for other convincing evidence that shows your date of birth or age at a certain time such as: an original family bible or family record; school records; census records; a statement signed by the physician or midwife who was present at your birth; insurance policies; a marriage record; a passport; an employment record; a delayed birth certificate, your child's birth certificate; or an immigration or naturalization record.

So back in the 1940s and 1950s people were often giving evidence from things like a family Bible...


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