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Are “long form” birth certificates an endangered species?

Let me start by saying that I do not agree with what birthers call a “long form,” but I needed something for the title. What I’m talking about in this article is a certified photocopy of an original paper document. In most cases such documents originate with hospitals, although some come from midwives and a handful are from unattended births.

There has been a rapid move from paper to electronic birth registrations. As long ago as 1998, an estimated 90% of all births where registered through electronic systems. According to the National Association for Public Health Statistics and Information Systems (NAPHSIS), only a few states (notably Arizona) have yet to implement electronic birth reporting.

Electronic Birth States as of 2011 – NAPHSIS – Click to Enlarge

What I hope to accomplish in this article, with the help of commenters, is to make a comprehensive table of the status of “long forms” in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. “Open Records” in the table below means that anyone may obtain a copy of the birth certificate for anyone else.

State Certified photocopy generally available? Records open to the public Notes
Alabama No No specific mention of the form of the certificate found
Alaska No specific mention of the form of the certificate found
Arizona Before 1990 Yes
After 1989 No
Arkansas No specific mention of the form of the certificate found
California Yes Yes
Colorado No No specific mention of the form of the certificate found
Connecticut Towns also issue certificates.
Delaware No No specific mention of the form of the certificate found
District of Columbia No
Florida Yes No “Florida’s birth certificate is a computer certification that contains an embossed seal incorporated into the safety paper, which meet requirements established by Homeland Security and other national and international groups.” Offers both computer-generated and photocopy certificates.
Georgia No They have a “full zsize” certificate available
Hawaii No No
Idaho Yes No Offers both computer-generated and photocopy certificates.
Illinois Yes No 3-4 weeks to order “long form”
Indiana No No specific mention of the form of the certificate found
Iowa No No specific mention of the form of the certificate found
Kansas No Certified copy and “wallet size” available (not good for passport)
Kentucky No specific mention of the form of the certificate found
Louisiana Yes No Mentions “long form” but does not describe it. Assume it’s a photocopy.
Maine Yes No specific mention of the form of the certificate found
Maryland No No No specific mention of the form of the certificate found, although I think it is computer-generated only
Massachusetts Yes No specific mention of the form of the certificate found
Michigan It looks like all the certificates are computer-generated from the language used on the web site, but it’s not certain.
Minnesota Yes No specific mention of the form of the certificate found
Misissippi No specific mention of the form of the certificate found
Missouri No No specific mention of the form of the certificate found
Montana Yes No specific mention of the form of the certificate found. Records are open only for events 30 years prior to the application.
Nebraska No No specific mention of the form of the certificate found
Nevada No No specific mention of the form of the certificate found
New Hampshire No No specific mention of the form of the certificate found
New Jersey Yes Yes No specific mention of the form of the certificate found
New Mexico No No specific mention of the form of the certificate found
New York (except New York City)
New York City
North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island No They offer different types of forms depending the purpose indicated on the application. Certificates are also issued by town clerks.
South Carolina No No Certified copies of the actual birth certificate that was filed by the attendant at birth will only be issued when a computer-generated form is not available. South Carolina calls their computer generated form containing no hospital information a “long form.”
South Dakota
Tennessee Yes Residents of Davidson County (Nashville) can get photocopy certificates for births after 1966.
Texas Yes It may take several days
Utah
Vermont
Virginia
Washington
West Virginia
Wisconsin
Wyoming

24 Responses to Are “long form” birth certificates an endangered species?

  1. avatar
    JoZeppy April 15, 2011 at 6:15 pm #

    I was born in New Jersey. Last year I ordered a copy of my birth certificate. I was given the option of a copy of the original record or a computer generated copy. I took the copy of the original record, and it was a certified copy on secruity paper.

    My daughter was born in Maryland 2 years ago. We had one option. The computer generated print out.

  2. avatar
    Dr Kenneth Noisewater (Bob Ross) April 15, 2011 at 6:24 pm #

    Doc here’s arizona’s according to vitalchek
    http://www.vitalchek.com/agency_info.aspx?p=20245&s=loc
    Long form only available to those born before 1990

  3. avatar
    Jleinf April 15, 2011 at 6:31 pm #

    Back in 1961 when I was born there was only one form- the long-form. It had a hospital of birth, doctor’s signature and was definative proof for 1961. When I show my long-form to people they know this is the certificate that was issued in 1961 and it has not been ammended. Yeah sure, computer generated forms will be the future but they’re not for 1961 right circle guys?

  4. avatar
    Loren April 15, 2011 at 6:33 pm #

    I can confirm this next week, but I believe the Georgia Department of Community Health *will* issue a certified photocopy of the original birth certificate.

    I do know this for a fact, as I’ve previously confirmed it: Fulton County (where Atlanta is located) definitely issues certified photocopies of original birth certificates. See http://www.fultoncountyga.gov/dhw-vital-records/3592-what-information-will-be-on-the-birth-certificate . As for other counties’ vital records offices, I would expect them to do the same, but I can’t say that for certain.

  5. avatar
    Scientist April 15, 2011 at 6:36 pm #

    Jleinf: Back in 1961 when I was born there was only one form- the long-form. It had a hospital of birth, doctor’s signature and was definative proof for 1961. When I show my long-form to people they know this is the certificate that was issued in 1961 and it has not been ammended. Yeah sure, computer generated forms will be the future but they’re not for 1961 right circle guys?

    What would you do if you lost it?

  6. avatar
    Loren April 15, 2011 at 6:39 pm #

    When I show my long-form to people they know this is the certificate that was issued in 1961 and it has not been ammended. Yeah sure, computer generated forms will be the future but they’re not for 1961 right circle guys?

    Over the years, vital records offices have digitized their old records. Information that appeared on original birth certificates has been input into computers and saved in files. The specific year any given individual was born is irrelevant, unless the state only went back so far in their digitization.

    For instance, one of the other widely-circulated Hawaiian COLBs, that of Patricia DeCosta, is for a woman born in 1930: http://i305.photobucket.com/albums/nn227/Polarik/doc_decosta_pat_birth.jpg

  7. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy April 15, 2011 at 6:48 pm #

    JoZeppy:
    I was born in New Jersey.Last year I ordered a copy of my birth certificate.I was given the option of a copy of the original record or a computer generated copy.I took the copy of the original record, and it was a certified copy on secruity paper.

    My daughter was born in Maryland 2 years ago.We had one option.The computer generated print out.

    Having personally worked on the Maryland system, that’s what I thought.

  8. avatar
    G April 15, 2011 at 6:53 pm #

    This is awesome stuff you are working on Doc! Love the graph and the chart being built! Kudos!!!!

  9. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy April 15, 2011 at 6:56 pm #

    Loren:
    I can confirm this next week, but I believe the Georgia Department of Community Health *will* issue a certified photocopy of the original birth certificate.

    I do know this for a fact, as I’ve previously confirmed it:Fulton County (where Atlanta is located) definitely issues certified photocopies of original birth certificates.See http://www.fultoncountyga.gov/dhw-vital-records/3592-what-information-will-be-on-the-birth-certificate .As for other counties’ vital records offices, I would expect them to do the same, but I can’t say that for certain.

    In Georgia, counties can register births and issue certificates independent of the State for births within the county. I worked on the DeKalb county vital records system a number of years ago. They have the original paper certificates there, but they prefer to issue the computer-generated ones because it is quicker.

    I remember being shown some old historical death events at DeKalb, including one where the doctor wrote in the cause of death: “Don’t know. He was dead when I got here.”

  10. avatar
    Rickey April 15, 2011 at 7:32 pm #

    My New York birth certificate says this on the back:

    “Your child’s original birth certificate is on file at the New York State Department of Health, Vital Records Section, Empire State Plaza, Albany, NY 12237. A copy is also on file with the local registrar of the community in which your child was born. Copies of the birth certificate may be obtained from either the State Health Department or the local registrar.”

    The above wording is from a 1988 Certificate of Birth Registration form.

    So far, neither the state nor the local registrar has been responsive to my request for a copy of my original birth certificate.

  11. avatar
    Jleinf April 15, 2011 at 8:38 pm #

    Hey is it possible to ammend the 1961 long-form like you can ammend the COLB? Just wondering and no I haven’t lost in life.

  12. avatar
    JoZeppy April 15, 2011 at 10:08 pm #

    Jleinf: Hey is it possible to ammend the 1961 long-form like you can ammend the COLB? Just wondering and no I haven’t lost in life.

    This question makes it pretty clear that you don’t really understand what you are talking about.

  13. avatar
    Mary Brown April 15, 2011 at 10:10 pm #

    I will find out about Nebraska.

  14. avatar
    y_p_w April 15, 2011 at 11:38 pm #

    Here’s a scan of a Louisiana “long form” that was released by a local candidate for Congress:

    http://cenlamar.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/screen-shot-2010-07-14-at-9-01-57-pm.png

    It’s pretty extensive for a computer printout BC, but only lists age (not DOB) of both parents at the time of birth, and doesn’t list the name of the attendant, the certifier, or any witnesses (other than maybe the mother).

    As for NY state, I understand the state charges $30 (ouch) for each copy. The cities I looked at were $10.

    I think it might also be useful to differentiate between open records states that provide certified informational copies and where anyone can get a full certified BC. Ohio allows anyone to get a full certified BC for anyone. There’s several for LeBron James that people have obtained as souvenirs.

  15. avatar
    obsolete April 16, 2011 at 2:51 am #

    Doc C-
    Here is my Illinois “Long-form” COLB Certificate of Live Birth. I ordered it last year for inheritance purposes (they ask why you want it) and they gave me this one because the new “short-form” doesn’t list parents. Notice it does not list “religion” for anyone or tell you the citizenship status of my parents.
    Notice that there is more info at the bottom that is covered by a sheet of paper when they made this. It is my “long-form” copied onto modern security paper with a raised seal and signature.
    http://www.imagehosting.gr/show.php/1535302_birth-edit-web.jpg.html
    The State of Illinois tells me that my birth records are “actually written down” in the state’s archives. It’s half-typed and half hand-written.

    Here is a relative’s “short-form” from Illinois ordered in 2007 for job & tax purposes. Notice it has much LESS info than Obama’s, but yet was used & accepted for many purposes.
    http://www.imagehosting.gr/out.php/i1535334_birth-web2.jpg

    If you have any questions or need more info Doc let me know….

  16. avatar
    bjphysics April 16, 2011 at 12:35 pm #

    Doc,

    I needed a certified BC for employment in 2002 and Alaska sent me a Certification of Birth. I ordered 2, one regular size and one wallet size. I ordered 4 more in 2004, two regular size and two wallet size.

    Requirements of the State Department for first time passports have been listed here before but I will list them again and compare them to what Alaska sent me.

    Persons born in the United States applying for a passport for the first time.

    The birth certificate must show:

    Full name of the applicant
    Applicant’s place and date of birth
    Full name of the parent(s); mother’s maiden
    Signed by the official custodian of birth records
    Bear the seal of the issuing office
    Show a filing date within one year of the date of birth

    Alaska Certification of Birth (looks like Obama’s COLB from Hawaii)

    Full name (got it, need it)
    Sex (got it, don’t need it?)
    DOB (got it, need it)
    Place of birth (got it, need it): born in two places – quantum entanglement?
    Mother’s maiden name (got it, need it)
    Father’s maiden name (got it, need it)
    Date filed (got it, need it) [47 days after birth]
    Date issued (got it, don’t need it)
    State Registrar (got it, need it)
    Raised Seal on security paper

    Both the regular size and wallet size have all these features.

    Alaska appears to provide, in non-photo copy abstract form, exactly what DoS requires for first time passports. A first time passport application requires full name and birth place of parents, as well as, applicant’s place of birth as it is currently known. In my 2002 Alaskan Certification of Birth my place of birth is LADD AFB but in my 2004 Alaskan Certification of Birth my place of birth is FORT WAINWRIGHT. I’m pretty sure Soros and my vegetarian overlords have infiltrated the Alaskan Bureau of Vital Statistics and changed my place of birth to something more suitable to political office; being born at a fort will help me win the militarist vote.

  17. avatar
    Greg April 16, 2011 at 4:49 pm #

    Minnesota = short form and closed records
    Massachussetts = long form

  18. avatar
    Joey April 16, 2011 at 5:37 pm #

    Jleinf:
    Hey is it possible to ammend the 1961 long-form like you can ammend the COLB? Just wondering andno I haven’t lost in life.

    A Certification Of Live Birth (COLB) is an abstract of the pertinent information on the original, vault copy Certificate of Live BIrth. The original would be the amended birth record and any amended or delayed registration would be noted by an “AMENDED”or a “DELAYED REGiSTRATION” notation on both the abstract and the original Certificate of Live Birth.

  19. avatar
    Sef April 16, 2011 at 7:25 pm #

    Greg: Massachussetts = long form

    Plus a card you can carry around that’s not much good for anything (maybe some cred at Fenway).

  20. avatar
    Keith April 16, 2011 at 10:57 pm #

    Joey: A Certification Of Live Birth (COLB) is an abstract of the pertinent information on the original, vault copy Certificate of Live BIrth. The original would be the amended birth record and any amended or delayed registration would be noted by an “AMENDED”or a “DELAYED REGiSTRATION” notation on both the abstract and the original Certificate of Live Birth.

    AND the whole point of the CERTIFICATION part of a Birth CERTIFICATE is to CERTIFY that the information on the document being CERTIFIED is true and correct. That is what a CERTIFICATE does. A document is not a CERTIFICATE unless it has all the marks required to make it a CERTIFICATE, i.e. security paper, raised or colored seal, signature of authorized official, etc.

    States appoint authorized officials to ensure such documents can actually be CERTIFIED in this way. It is one of the services a modern government bureaucracy provides to its citizenry. Furthermore, the Constitution of the United States guarantees that each state must respect the official documentation of all the other states, that is part of what a ‘more perfect Union’ is all about – mutual respect and honor for brethren States.

    It is the INFORMATION on the document that is important and what is being CERTIFIED as true. It does not matter if the original registration contained incorrect information and has been since corrected, but BY LAW such corrections must be noted on the document if it is to be CERTIFIED. If a CERTIFIED document doesn’t say that it is amended or has been corrected, then it has not been amended or corrected. That is part of the information about that is being CERTIFIED

    When you refuse to honor the integrity of the CERTIFIED documents of another State, you are not just accusing that states authorized officers of fraud and malfeasance (which may expose you to to charges of libel and/or defamation), you are violating the Constitution of the United States in spirit. If you are another government, whether Federal or State (like Arizona for example) then you are violating the Constitution of the United States in fact.

  21. avatar
    Keith April 16, 2011 at 11:06 pm #

    Oh yeah, one other thing.

    When I applied for a passport in 1980, I had to send to Michigan for a BC as I didn’t have my childhood one.

    One thing I remembered about it was my mother mentioning that her name had been misspelled so I mentioned this possibility in the request letter, to help them ensure they found the correct document.

    Sure enough, when it came back, it was one of those negative image versions, with several handwritten corrections, including my mother’s name, clearly visible. There was no need for it to be stamped ‘amended’, because the amendments were clearly visible.

    If I sent off for one now, I would expect a computer printout version with some indication that these amendments/corrections had been applied to the database. I haven’t done so, but perhaps I should.

  22. avatar
    Keith April 16, 2011 at 11:12 pm #

    Just found this on the Michigan website:

    Verifications
    || PDF Page ||
    -Key facts on any Michigan birth record can be verified. Anyone is eligible to request a verification of a Michigan birth record as long as the information to be verified can be supplied by the applicant. A verification does not include a signature, state file number or a copy of the birth record, but a stamp that indicates that a record is/is not on file in the state repository that matches the criteria supplied by the applicant. Parents names cannot be verified. Only the name on the record, date, place and date of filing can be verified.

    Notice that file numbers will not be verified, signature will not be verified, and the entire record will not be verified.

    Hawai’i is not the only state that will not verify the file number, NC1.

  23. avatar
    Keith April 16, 2011 at 11:13 pm #

    More from Michigan for your info:

    Certified Copies
    ||PDF Page ||
    – PHOTO IDENTIFICATION IS REQUIRED TO REQUEST A MICHIGAN BIRTH RECORD. A certified copy is printed on special safety paper and contains a raised, embossed seal. Records are available as early as 1867, however, the initial registration year varies by the county where the birth occurred (click here for table). Birth records are restricted in Michigan and only a person or parent named on the record or a court-appointed legal guardian of the person named on the record may request a copy of a birth record that is LESS than 100 years old. A legally licensed representative is eligible to request a copy if he/she represents the person named on the record. An heir may request a copy of a birth record LESS than 100 years old if they can provide an out-of-state death certificate or the death information if it was a Michigan death with the request. Anyone can request a birth record that is OVER 100 years old as they are no longer restricted documents.

  24. avatar
    Observer April 17, 2011 at 1:12 pm #

    Sef April 16, 2011 at 7:25 pm (Quote) #
    “Greg: Massachussetts = long form
    “Plus a card you can carry around that’s not much good for anything (maybe some cred at Fenway).”

    In MA, the town clerk now issues a “RECORD OF BIRTH.”

    It includes the name of the hospital, but no names of attending physician, midwife, witnesses or any one else, and no time of birth. The signature of the certifying official is a rubber stamp. There is a raised seal that is pasted on.

    It is a computer generated abstract of the birth record. The town clerk certifies that she has custody of the records of birth required by law to be kept in her office. She certifies that it is a “true extract.” (The old form was a typed extract from the records of births, with an embossed raised seal in the paper, and a signature in ink. It had information, like occupation of father (but not mother) that is not on the current form_.

    So it is not the original hospital generated form that was completed at the time of birth that the birthers refer to as a “long form.” I think that those forms, like those of the Nordyke twins, were generated at the hospital and sent to the health department, where they were certified by state custodial officials and put in their records.

    The MA record of birth is not like the Nordyke certificate, but it is just like the Hawaiian COLB issued to Obama.

    Is it a “certified copy of the presidential candidate’s long form birth certificate that includes at least the date and place of birth, the names of the hospital and the attending physician, if applicable, and signatures of any witnesses in attendance.” Well, it is certified, and has the hospital, but no physician or witnesses.

    The AZ Secretary would surely accept it.

    But it would not pass muster under the intent of the AZ legislators, nor would it be the form that they want at the birther websites. It shows the folly of the use of the undefined term “long form.”

    If no one born in MA could run for Pres, it would be just fine with them.