Genealogy Research,  How To Trace Your Family Tree

Find Extra Clues in an Ancestor’s Delayed Birth Certificate

A delayed birth certificate can provide extra genealogy clues about your ancestor’s family! Explore the extras often found on one.

Delayed birth certificates can be a treasure chest of genealogy clues  for the researcher.

After all, establishing the birth of an ancestor is high on any genealogist’s to-do list.

Finding a record to prove the birth date and place can be a stumbling block in the research process. In How to Determine Your Ancestor’s Birth Date (Even If No Birth Record is Found), we discussed how to determine a birth date when no birth record can be found. In this post, we are going to talk about when a birth record was created years after the actual event – in this case, an ancestor’s birth.

Have you encountered a “delayed birth certificate” for your ancestor? 

We are going to take a close look at the North Carolina delayed birth certificate of Cecile Clara White.  As you research vital records, including delayed birth certificates, information will vary from state to state.

Birth certificates or formal birth records are relatively “modern” records. The start dates for vital records varies from state to state.  Check with the state where you research to establish when birth records began being recorded. (No sense researching for a record that never existed.)

For instance, birth certificates were not required in North Carolina until 1913.  Many rural areas were slow to become compliant with this new requirement, but by  the end of WWI, all counties were consistently recording births and creating birth certificates.

Antique cabinet card of baby

Why was a delayed birth certificate even needed?

Social Security requirements required individuals to provide proof of birth.  Passport applications also required proof of birth. If an individual was born prior to 1913  or in the surrounding years and had no birth certificate, they needed to apply for a delayed birth certificate.

I hear you asking, “How do I know to look for a delayed birth certificate?

Consider first if your ancestor was born prior to the start of birth records in their state.  Alternately, consider where your ancestors lived. Was it very rural or remote? Most births were home births. Making a trip to the courthouse was not high on a parent’s list of things to do when other children needed caring for and/or crops needed to be brought in.

Next, consider if your ancestor had a passport record or appears in the Social Security Death Index? If so, they likely had a delayed birth certificate issued.

Why a Delayed Birth Certificate Is A Genealogist’s Treasure Chest!

A delayed birth certificate may be more valuable to your genealogy research than a birth certificate filed at the time of birth.


Because the applicant had to supply proof with supporting evidence of their birth date and place. In other words, your ancestor has done the work for you!

Delayed birth certificates provide additional information that an original certificate does not.

Let’s take a look at 5 important pieces of genealogical information found on this North Carolina delayed birth certificate for Cecile Clara White.

First notice, Cecile White was born in 1917 – 4 years after the 1913 date when NC birth records started. Again, consistency in this state did not occur until after WWI.

Delayed birth certificate of Cecile White
Did your ancestor have a delayed birth certificate? That's a good thing! Find out the "extra" genealogy clues that are not found in traditional birth or vital records.

1. Basic Vital Record Information: Cecile Clara White was born February 18, 1917 to James Abe White and Stella Foy [Fay] Holyfield in Dobson, Surry, NC. Both parents were born in Surry County, NC. Just as on a normal birth certificate, information about the parents is provided. With the parents birth place of Surry County, NC, research into the next generation back would continue in Surry County. 

2. Married Name: Cecile White Howard applied for this delayed birth certificate on 9 August 1971, more than 54 years after her birth.  Her signature was required and provides her married name  Howard and her original signature. Having your ancestor’s original signature (or mark)  can be important when you need to distinguish between two people of the same name.  [Note: Obviously, if  a delayed birth certificate is being filed for a child, no marriage information will be found.]

Cecile W Howard's signature on delayed birth certificate.

3. Information on applicant’s parents: An affidavit from Cecile’s mother Stella White provided evidence for Cecile’s birth date.  Stella White was 76 years old and still living in Dobson, Surry, NC in August 1971. Simple math calculates her birth date as ~1895.  Further, we can at least state Stella Holyfield White of Dobson, NC was born ~1895 and died after 9 August 1971.  This information will be helpful when beginning researching Stella and her generation of the family.

Cecile White's parents on birth certificate

James “Abe” White was Cecile’s father. As noted above, he was born in Surry County, NC.  No other information about Abe White is provided. While no evidence is provided, in all likelihood, Abe was not still living in 1971. For the researcher, a death certificate would be a good next step for researching Abe White and his White family line. 

Evidence of family Bible on delayed birth certificate

4. A Family Bible exists:  The Bible of Stella White is presented as evidence of Cecile’s birth year  of 1917.  Obviously this means a family Bible exists and gives the researcher a new record to search.  Find out who has that Bible! 

5. Information on the applicant’s child:  Cecile’s daughter is named and her place of birth listed. This provides the researcher a location for where Cecile lived in December 1948.  Cecile was living in Guilford County, NC. (In the above example, Cecile’s child’s name is hidden for privacy reasons.)

Did your ancestor have a delayed birth certificate? That's a good thing! Find out the "extra" genealogy clues that are not found in traditional birth or vital records. #genealogy #ancestors #areyoumycousin
Pin for Future Reference!

6. BONUS:  Evidence of a death record:  Under “additional information” a notation is found that Cecile W Howard is deceased and her death certificate record number is provided.  If not looked at already, the death certificate can easily be obtained for research.

Additional information on Cecile White's delayed birth certificate

Whew!  That’s a lot of information!

  1. The birth date, birth location, parents’ names and parents’ places of birth.
  2. Applicant’s married name.
  3. Information and/or clues to the parents’ birth places, ages, or death.
  4. The existence of a Family Bible.
  5. Information on the applicant’s child.
  6. Evidence of a death record and the death record number.

That’s information on three generations,  Cecile’s married name, and her original signature  all found on Cecile White Howard’s delayed birth certificate!

Let the genealogy dance begin!

dancing girl against yellow background

Take your learning one step further!

Learn How To NOT Miss Any Clues in an Ancestor’s Birth Certificate!

Other Genealogy Posts on Vital Records You Will Enjoy!


Spread the love


  • Barb

    You say check with the county register of deeds – would this be the county of birth or the county/state the person was living in when they obtained a social security number? Thanks.

    • LisaL

      Barb, this is a great question. Check in the county of birth. For example, both of my grandparents were living in Guilford County when they applied for their SS numbers, but their delayed birth certifciates are filed in the counties of their births (Lee and Surry Counties). In my grandmother’s case, she did not apply for a delayed birth certificate until the 1970’s when she wanted to get a passport.

      • Larry Telford

        This is not always the case that the delayed birth certificate is found in the county of birth. In Texas, many delayed births were recorded in the county of current residency for counties in and outside of Texas. As memoriy serves, those rules applied from about 1939 to about 1945. So if your ancesotr livedin Texas between 1939 and 1945, they could file their delayed birth certificate where they lived. When I was microfiliming Texas county records, I was suprized to find this out.

    • Cindy Marino

      Hello I’m a 51 year old gypsy woman my family said I was born in New York City on July 30th 1968 for years I’ve been searching for a birth certificate and there’s no record I have my father’s name and where he was born his mother and father’s name but I have no information on my mother I cannot obtain a driver’s license a bank account a passport nothing is available to me without a birth certificate from what I understand I don’t think I’ve ever had one because gypsies back then never registered giving birth they usually had their children at home so they never recorded any Earth can someone please help me with this I’ve been searching for years and it’s been so hard for me can you please help

      • Hazara

        I could possibly give it a try to assist you Cindy, I have a way that I am good for finding people. If you may want me to try and assist you, please feel free to email me.

  • Nancy Wilson

    In two different situations, I have found siblings names and birth dates in one record, and children’s names and birth dates in another. These were both from the application that was completed by the ancestor in order to get the delayed birth certificate. You may want to not only ask for a delayed birth certificate, but for the application as well. It is a long shot because many counties destroyed the applications, but I found one county, Wayne, NC, who still had theirs.

    • LisaL

      Absolutely, Nancy! What great finds for you! I’m glad to know Wayne County, NC still has their applications. Since so many counties destroyed theirs, it’s nice to know a few kept them.

    • LisaL

      Kris, I’m going to put this question to the FB group and see if any of those German ancestor researchers can help. Do you have an approximate date?

  • Tony

    My father who is now deceased was born in 1922 in NJ, lived in NJ his entire life, served in the army during WW2, was married, traveled to Italy in the 1950’s (so I’m guessing he must have had a passport), had a SS#, owned a business, etc. and the NJ Vital Records has no birth certificate, original or delayed for him. We’ve tried separate spellings, and different years but there is absolutely no record. I am currently trying to obtain his baptism records. Have you ever heard of someone going through their entire life like this with no birth certificate? Any suggestions?

    • JuliasGenes

      If you are still there, Tony, I have a tentative suggestion.

      Although I have not tried it myself, there is a way to obtain passport records. There are separate addresses to contact for records from 1925 and beyond and from 1925 to today. It can’t hurt to apply, but from the comments on the page, it might be a long wait for a response.

      Be aware, though, that due to The Plague, NARA is operating on emergency requests only – like DD-214s for homeless vets and for vets who have funerals pending in military cemeteries. When things finally open up, consider trying to obtain your father’s passport records. And let us know how it worked.

      All the best.

  • Joan Stewart Smith

    In the case of some of my Wisconsin ancestors (c. 1860-1880), there aren’t delayed birth certificates, but the birth and death dates were registered some time after the fact. My challenge is that some of these late registration birth dates contradict the baptismal church records. Immigrant parents, often unable to read or write, don’t always remember the exact date or year of their many children. The problem is that the “official” dates are the ones being seen as the last word. I see the baptismal records, listing birth date and baptismal date with the correct parents, as more dependable than the after-the-fact registered dates, don’t you?

    • LisaL

      Joan, I agree with you. Those baptismal birth records would have been created at the time of the event and the information provided by the parents (presumably). I would go with those.

  • Mary Anne Berry

    Question: Do you need to specifically ask for a search for a Delayed Birth Record? My grandfather was born in 1905, before registration began in 1914 (Arkansas). I wrote to the county clerk office where he was born and they referred me to the State Vital Records. He died at the age of 42, and his death certificate does not indicate a SS#. I’m not sure whether to bother with the fee for the State Vital Records people, but if I do, do I need to specify that I am looking for a Delayed Record?

    • LisaL

      You should not have to specify for a delayed birth certificate. With that said, it never hurts to call and ask if they make a distinction in their filing. Every place is different. Given such an early birth date and that he died young with a SS#, it’s very doubtful he would have had one.

  • Nelda

    Finding a delayed birth record is not always so easy, except perhaps if your ancestor served militarily. In this case, their delayed certificate would likely coincide with a time period just before their enlistment, but not always. I found a gold mine of delayed certificates when looking for my fathers. He served in WWII, but the date of his being filed did not coincide closely with his enlistment date. He had 2 older brothers who also served. He was from a family with 12 children, 8 of which had been born in the same county. Yes, all born at home on the farm. When his parents went to the court house to file for one of his older brothers, they went ahead and filed for all 8. I was looking for collateral information, hoping for clues. So I ended up finding 8 certificates, consecutively numbered, including my fathers!

    • LisaL

      Thank you for sharing your success story. You are correct – sometimes those delayed birth certificates are more difficult to find!

  • Darla Kasiske

    Hello. I have been researching trying to find my grandmothers biological parents. We know she was adopted, but recently, through Ancestry, I learned that I still have a dna connection through her mother’s side of the family (my great grandmother’s side). However, it is not directly through my great grandmother. I believe it was through her grandfather. This leads me to believe that my grandmother was adopted from a relative on her (adopted) mother’s side of the family. I have found my grandmother’s birth certificate, but it was a delayed birth certificate. She was born in 1913 (in Texas which began recording births in 1903), but the birth certificate file date is 1942. It also lists my great grandparents as her parents, but we know she was adopted. I would greatly appreciate any insight/advice. Sincerely, Darla

  • Martie Cenkci

    Very interesting article. I have been trying to locate birth records on my mother, who was born in Jackson County, Illinois in 1910–a rural area, her father was a farmer and her mom a housewife, no birth records required until 1916, The county had nothing, but the local historical society had delayed birth records for a few of her siblings around the time that they applied for a social security card. She applied for a SS card in 1940, but was living in Texas. So was wondering if that would make a difference, maybe that’s why Illinois wouldn’t have one on her? I have a copy of her application for a social security card, but just can’t find any kind of birth certificate, original or delayed.

  • instantvitalrecords

    If you gave birth at a birthing center or hospital, the staff there most likely provided you with the documentation and paperwork necessary to file your baby’s birth with the appropriate government office. The same goes for in-home doulas and other midwife services part of their job responsibilities when advocating for your birth experience is to ensure your birth is registered appropriately.

    • LisaL

      I would not think so. Typically, a delayed birth certificate would have been issued when someone needed the document for applying for things like social security or a passport.

      • Eleanor

        My mother was signed up for S.S. using their marriage certificate with both of my parent’s signatures and the date of marriage used as the date. She was born in 1908. I would like to investigate to see if she has a delayed birth certificate. My dad does have one that was prepared legally with two of his siblings as witnesses. Where do I start looking to see if she has a delayed birth certificate? Can that be done remotely or does it have to be done in person?
        This great article got me wondering!!!

  • Gail Windisch

    My grandmother was born in 1901 in Carroll County, Arkansas, the second of nine children. The first seven children were born before 1917, when Arkansas began requiring birth certificates. In 1959, their mother (then age 82, living in California) completed Delayed Birth Certificates for her 7 oldest children, and they were recorded that same year. There were hundreds, if not thousands, of Delayed Birth Certificates recorded in Arkansas at that time. I’ve tried to figure out, without success, whether there was some campaign causing this mass effort. Or was it the age of the parents combined with the fact the children were approaching the age for Social Security benefits? I appreciate your thoughts.

    • LisaL

      I’m note completely sure, but likely this is for the Social Security benefits. If you check the newspapers for that time period, you might find articles or campaign type of ads.

  • Frank Napolitano

    You say that if your ancestor appears in the Social Security Death Index that it’s likely s/he has a delayed birth certificate. My grandfather was born in 1926 in New York State (Long Island) and died at 34. No SS Death Index, but he did have a SSN which appears on his offical death certificate.
    I have no doubt of his birthday. It appears on multiple sources, e.g. baptismal record, WW2 draft registration card, marriage license, death certificate. But New York State returned a “no record found” when I submitted a formal search that covered 1925-1927.
    Does the fact that he had a SSN mean that he must have a delayed birth cerificate somewhere? If so that would give me hope that either a search covering a longer timeframe or perhaps more searching at the local level might yield his BC.

    • LisaL

      Being in the SSDI does not ensure he had a birth certificate – delayed or otherwise. Early SS applications did not require a birth certificate for proof. The application could be filled out by an employer. You could widen your search by dates (clerical mistakes did happen), but he may not have had one.

  • Paola Perez

    Hi Lisa,
    I’m trying to find my deceased grandfather’s birth certificate. I have his SSN, place of birth (Arizona), name of his parents, DOB, death certificate. Recently, I found a delayed birth certificate card on a website. It looks like a fee payment with his information. Apparently, He applied for a delayed Birth certificate. How can I find his delayed birth certificate? Should I contact vital records? Should I contact USCIS?

    Additionally, there is a way to find this kind of records at a courthouse?

    Thank you

    • LisaL

      Paola, I would reach out to the county/state where he applied for the delayed birth certificate to see what other paper work would have been created. The forms varied state to state. Most likely it will not be at the court house, but the register of deeds office (or the equivalent in that county).

  • vivian

    I am looking for my great-grandfather Isham Campbell (b.11/1864) to learn who he is, and who is his family and where did they come from. The first time I ever saw him he showed up in the 1900 Census. By the 1910 Census he was gone the children being raised by their oldest sibling and her husband. The only one I was able to keep up with is my Dad’s (Frank Campbell Jr.b.1934 living) Dad (Frank Sr. abt. 1895-1897 d. 1977, birthplace is unknown but he lived in Coweta Ga) Frank Jr (88yrs now) knows nothing except he had to get his name changed from “Cameron” to “Campbell” if he wanted to keep his job. He heard his family is from South Carolina and Alabama, that a few are from Virginia. They fired him anyway because he lied when he used the name that was on his birth certificate, “Cameron”. His Dad had already prior to this incident, changed his own name from Cameron to Campbell. He was a Cameron when he married abt 1930. Dad remembers he had an Uncle Duncan and an Uncle Jim but doesn’t know how they were his uncles.

  • Jessica

    I actually have a question and it refers to myself I was born in 1991 meaning I’m 31 years old, and my birth certificate says delayed certificate of birth. What do you think the reason for that is?? I can’t ask my mother because she has passed away and my dad he just tells me he doesn’t know why it’s delayed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *