Why You Might Find Your Birth Certificate Handy

In most, but not all, countries around the world, every birth is registered and some sort of certificate issued to document the birth. Each country may have different information recorded on the certificate, but the following details tend to be included on most birth certificates:

  • date of birth;
  • address of birthplace;
  • father’s name;
  • mother’s name;
  • name of the child;
  • gender of the child;
  • issuing authority;
  • signature of the person issuing the certificate.

Many birth certificates have features embedded in them which make them harder to alter or forge, although the design of most certificates still belongs to the last century and with modern technology it probably wouldn’t be too difficult to alter a birth certificate for illegal purposes, certainly easier than falsifying a passport or driving license.

Most birth certificates are retained by parents until such time that the child whose birth certificate it is grown up and needs the certificate for their own purposes, commonly to acquire a driving license or passport for the first time.

Many people tend to forget about their birth certificates after that and put them somewhere for safekeeping, although many get lost, usually just before they have been requested by someone! Usually, it is possible to get a replacement birth certificate if needed, although some jurisdictions are more efficient than others.

Why is a birth certificate necessary?

1. Evidence of parentage

The birth certificate gives information about who the parents of the certificate holder were. This isn’t always definitive proof because many authorities that registered the birth of a child, especially in the past, would record details about parents based on what they were told. However, it helps to establish a relationship for inheritance purposes.

2. Driving license

Many countries need to establish identity before issuing a first driving license, as well as a person’s residential and postal address. The birth certificate is usually an initial document shown when the first driving license is applied for as it establishes the date of birth and legal name.

3. Premarital name or evidence of name change

It is common in many, but not all, countries for a woman to take the name of her husband on marriage. Although this practice is tending to become less common, it is still common enough for the birth certificate to be requested whenever a marriage certificate is examined to check the premarital or maiden name. The same applies if someone quite legitimately applies for a name change.

4. Citizenship, ID. and passport applications

As for driving licenses, other identity documents issued for the first time often require examination of the birth certificate to establish citizenship, name, and date of birth.

5. School enrollments

Schools may require the date of birth of a child before he or she is first enrolled in a kindergarten or primary school. In many countries, attendance at school is compulsory for children of certain ages. The birth certificate is the primary method of determining the age of a child for enrollment as there will be no other document available at that age.

6. International travel for work or educational reasons

School, college, and university courses overseas, as well as employers and immigration authorities, usually require a raft of documents to establish the authenticity of a person’s application for a course, job, or visa, including a birth certificate.


If you can’t remember where you put your own birth certificate, make an effort to find it and put it somewhere where you will be able to locate it. It’s not just a quirky relic of your past. A missing birth certificate may put your life on hold just when you didn’t want it to!