…but it’s just as good.
I’ve written on this topic before. Part of the problem with the language is that it is used imprecisely and terms with technically different meanings are used interchangeably. States are not fully consistent with the titles they put on their documents. I’ve done some research in consultation with professionals in the field, and want to give you, the reader, some guidance on using the terms correctly:
- Birth certificate. This is an original document generated in most cases by a hospital, but possibly by others when a birth happens outside a hospital and not on the way to a hospital (if mother and newborn arrive in a taxi where the baby is born, the hospital completes the certificate). Different jurisdictions have their own procedures for the creation of certificates for those born outside a hospital. (There are variations on the theme when the birth is registered later — delayed birth certificates, or in the case of a foreign-born adoption.) Certificates contain one important attribute, the signature of the person attesting to the event. The most common type of certificate is the Certificate of Live Birth for the timely registration of children born alive.Nowadays many births are reported electronically by hospital systems (as a stream of data), and there is no paper birth certificate. In this case, the birth certificate is the electronic data and the signature is electronic.
- Certified Copy. Unless you work in a hospital or a vital records agency, chances are that you have never seen a real Birth Certificate. What you got from the State is a certified copy. A certified copy is a photocopy or digital image copy of the birth certificate. I will be signed by someone attesting that it is a true copy, and it should also be sealed (either in multiple colors or impressed) by the agency issuing it. Of course, with a paperless electronic system, there are no certified copies.
- Certification of Birth. Modern vital records systems carry computer databases of birth registration information. Some may retain images of old records while newer records may never have had an electronic image. The Barack Obama Certification of Live Birth is an example of one of these.
Certified Copies and Certifications of Birth carry certain basic information, including the child’s name, date and time of birth, location of birth (city, state, county), the State File Number, Sex and the date the record was filed with the vital records agency. Some may contain more. The important thing is that from a legal perspective a Certified Copy carries equal weight as a Certification of Birth, and both are fully valid for obtaining a passport, joining the military, registering with Social Security, and getting a drivers license, and until the lunatics run the asylum, proving that you’re eligible to be President of the United States.