Prepared by Elisabeth Lindsay.
A birth record is an original source record that documents the birth of an individual. Before the time of civil registration -- the time period varies for each country, and even within a country -- births were typically recorded in church or parish records. Families may also have kept a record of birth, marriages, and deaths in a family Bible. Birth records are a type of vital record, along with marriage records and death records, documenting a major life event. In some cases and for various reasons delayed birth certificates were issued, after the fact, but just as legally binding.
Vital records are of primary importance to family history researchers, in recording an event close to the time of its occurrence. Birth records are of particular importance for identifying not only the date and place of death, but also the parents, allowing researchers to extend their family tree and/or confirm relationships. Many types of records contain birth information such as military records, death records, census records,home and family sources, etc. And while such records may be of value in providing a date and place of birth and giving direction to the research, most are recorded long after the actual event and are subject to error. Even original source records may contain error, but more more so with records that have been compiled, transcribed, or abstracted. Thus, it is important to verify any conflict of information.