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What is a “long form” birth certificate?

It depends on who you ask. If a jurisdiction issues two forms of certificate, then which ever is bigger may be called a long form.

Take for example my state of South Carolina. They offer two types of certificate a “birth card” and a “long form.” The South Carolina “long form”1 is a computer-generated abstract containing:

  • state file number,
  • name of registrant,
  • date of birth,
  • county of birth,
  • place of birth (city),
  • father’s name (if listed on the original birth certificate),
  • father’s place of birth,
  • mother’s maiden name,
  • mother’s place of birth,
  • date record filed, and
  • the date issued.

The South Carolina definition is a more modern one, taking in to account that most births are now registered electronically. Other states take a more traditional approach.

Indiana defines the “long form” but then distinguishes between it and a “standard size” birth certificate:

What is a Long Form?

A Long Form is a certified 8.5” X 11” photo copy of the original birth certificate.

What is a standard size birth certificate?

A standard size birth certificate is a certified 8.5” X 5.5” copy of identifying information extracted from the original birth certificate.

Louisiana says its “long form” includes hospital information.

What is the difference between a Short-Form Birth Certificate (Birth Card) and a Long-Form Birth Certificate?

Both certificates are certified copies of birth records and have a raised seal.

Short-form birth certificates (birth cards) are $9.00 and include the name at birth, date of birth, parish of birth, father’s initials, mother’s last name and first initial, file date and issue date.

Long-form birth certificates are $15.00 and include the name at birth, date of birth, parish of birth, hospital of birth, mother’s residence at time of birth, mother and father’s full names, parent’s place of birth, age of parents at the time of birth, file date and issue date.

The District of Columbia has this definition of a long form:

The long form is a certified copy of the original birth certificate in its entirety.

Tennessee provides a discussion of the question:

What is the difference between the long form birth certificate and the short form birth certificate?

The long form certificate is a printed image of the original certificate of birth. In addition to the child’s name and date of birth, it contains information such as the name of the hospital, address of parents, parents’ dates of birth, etc. The “short form” certificate is a computer generated extract of the information listed on the original birth certificate. The short form is not available for births prior to 1949. If the date of birth on the certificate is 1976 or later, the information included on the short form is:

  • name
  • sex
  • mother’s maiden name
  • father’s name (if present on long form)
  • date of birth
  • county of birth
  • date issued
  • date filed.

The short form certificate does not include parents’ names on births prior to 1976. Both short form and long form certificates issued by the Tennessee Vital Records Office contain a raised seal which denotes certification. If the date of birth on the certificate is prior to 1976, you probably want the long form, since the short form does not include parents’ names. If you were born in 1976 or later, a short form may be adequate, but would depend on the anticipated use(s) of your certificate.

Note that because the parents’ names are omitted prior to 1967 the Tennessee short form would not be acceptable to obtain a U. S. Passport.

Illinois says:

A certified copy or “long form,” the most readily recognizable birth record, is an exact copy of your birth certificate as prepared by the hospital.

Texas provides additional explanation:

  • Standard size (short form or abstract): The most commonly issued format because it satisfies most purposes, including registering a child for school or sports, obtaining a passport for a person born after 1963 if born in a hospital and obtaining a driver license in most states. If the birth record is not available in this format or if the state you live in requires the full size for a driver license, a full-size birth certificate will be issued instead.
  • Full size (long form): Used most often to obtain a passport for a person born at home and/or before 1964. It’s also typically required for purposes of dual citizenship, Indian Registry and immigration. Because this format contains information that can facilitate identify theft, we recommend that you order this format only when it is required.

While the collection, verification and storage of vital statistics is an important function of the civil government, vital statistics agencies are also businesses that fund themselves by selling certificates to the public, something to keep in mind when considering how they label their products.

My conclusion from this exercise is that those states that talk about “long forms”  on their web sites (and the list above is all I found) usually mean a photocopy of an original certificate, but not always. Most of the information above is oversimplification, dealing only with hospital births and ignoring what records are available for what range of years. I don’t see how one gets a legal definition from what I found. I think any state could reasonably  label any certificate a “long form” so long at is contains the information required by the Department of State for a passport.


1 Click on the “What types of birth certifications are issued?” to expand the definition.

3 Responses to What is a “long form” birth certificate?

  1. avatar
    dunstvangeet April 20, 2011 at 1:15 pm #

    Interesting…

    The Louisiana “Long Form” doesn’t have any information about the physician, or the witnesses, as far as I know. So, Louisiana’s own “Long Form” doesn’t qualify as proof under their law…

    Of course, this is unconstitutional, because Louisiana is not accepting the full faith and credit of other state documents…

  2. avatar
    Gregory April 20, 2011 at 3:47 pm #

    Shouldn’t that be “It depends on whom you ask.”?

  3. avatar
    Paul Pieniezny April 20, 2011 at 5:13 pm #

    “The short form certificate does not include parents’ names on births prior to 1976.”

    Bingo! That may be the reason why a New York notary thinks a New York City short-form BC is not good enough for la douce France.

    Bob, I hope you know that Obama’s COLB includes the parents’ names?

    Why would foreign countries insist on knowing the maiden name of the mother? When registering a child born abroad, Spanish and Portuguese-speaking countries need the name of the mother as well to make up the name to be used in legal documents in those countries. For marriage purposes, France and other countries may want to make sure that the four parents of the prospective are four diffrent people. Even if one of the spouses is from some Southern US state.

    Having the full Christian name of the father is very important for the registration of children that have been brought back to Iceland, Russia and several other Orthodox Slavic countries because of the importance of patronymics in these countries.

    A naughty official in Germany (and perhaps even Russia) may consider the South Carolina short-form insufficient for marriage in their country, because it does not mention the FATHER’s maiden name. Countries like Russia and the former GDR made it possible for men to change their name to the woman’s name at marriage. Of course, nowadays Germany has solved that little problem of women’s lib (and the problem with Spanish and Portuguese name giving) by introducing the Ehename principle (the right for both spouses to agree on a common family name, which is then passed onto the children).
    http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Namensrecht_%28Deutschland%29#Ehename
    (sorry, you will have to use google translate on that one)
    So, how to solve the problem of a sceptical German official, when both your father and mother were called Jones (or Smith, or Obama)? Simple, you also provide your parents’ marriage certificate. See, Bob, in the normal world things are much simpler than in your bithers’world.

    And now something almost personal.

    My mother-in-law’s last Soviet era BC and her first Ukrainian era BC contain a data field that I haven’t seen on any of the US certificates quoted here, and it is one that actually answers the question of how useful is an original birth certificate.

    It says: “place and date of first registration”. My mother-in-law was born under Polish rule over the Western Ukraine, in a village so small that it did not even have its own church. As allowed under Polish law, the birth “certification” took place at an Orthodox church in a village nearby. Of course, that was the place and time she got baptized. The original (long-form?) birth certificate is a frigging baptismal certificate! (Note that the Soviet BC says all this happened in the USSR, and the Ukrainian BC says it happened in Ukraine, but that is another kettle of fish).

    Now, I have seen many birth certificates from Russian Poland before 1914. They are all obviously made up by a civic administration and are “executed” in Russian. Thed Russian Empire registered evrybody, even the Jews (explains why many Polish Jews have family names that look Russian). I guess the Russian Empire did not do it because they liked Jews, but because of the military draft.

    So, after 1919, Poland returns to religious denominations registering births. What did Polish Jews do? Could it be that they used circumcision certificates to prove their existence?