Gale Family Library

345 W. Kellogg Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55102
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651-259-3300

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Wednesday: 9 am-4 pm
Thursday: 9 am-4 pm
Friday: 9 am-4 pm
Saturday: 9 am-4 pm
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FAQ - Birth Records

 

About MN Birth Records Online

Q: How can I search for Minnesota Birth Records online?
Use either PeopleFinder or Search MNHS Research Materials to search a variety of records.  To search just Birth Records in either system, there are two options:

Search First:

  1. Enter your search term in the "New Search" box at the top of the page and click search.
  2. Click on the arrow next to "Narrow by Collection" in the left-hand column of filters.  
  3. Then, click on the plus sign next to Birth Certificate Index.   

Filter First:

  1. Click on the arrow next to "Narrow by Collection" in the left-hand column of filters.  
  2. Click on the plus sign next to Birth Certificate Index.  
  3. Enter your search term in Term box, located under the "Your Search" heading in the left-hand column.
  4. Click on the Search button

Note: To stop using a filter, click the grey x next to the filter name.  If you want to start a completely fresh search--one with no filters--just click the xs next to all the active filters OR click on the "Start a New Search" button.

 
Q: What will the online index tell me?
First, middle, and last name of the child; birthdate; county of birth; mother’s maiden name; certificate number.  Anything missing from the original record (often first and middle names) will not appear in the index. 
 
Q: Which Birth Records are included in the search?
  • birth certificates from 1907-1934 (over 1.5 million records)
  • birth-cards from 1900 to 1907 (over 360,000 records)
  • pre-1900 birth records (about 2700 records)
Q: Where can I find pre-1900 Birth Records?
  • A few pre-1900 births are in the online system
  • The MN Historical Society has birth records on microfilm for a few counties; it can be borrowed through Interlibrary Loan. See the Birth Records page of our Vital Records Research Guide for a full list 
  • The MN Historical Society has some local and county birth registers in the original format that can be viewed in person only.  You can search in the online catalog with the county, township or city name and the subject "birth records" for a complete listing of birth records, indexes, and registers. 
  • Some early records are held by the counties.  Contact the vital statistics or registrar's office for the county in which the person was born. 
Note: Minnesota law required the recording of births beginning in 1870, but compliance and enforcement was sporadic during the 1800s.  Many counties were not formed until after 1870, so births occurring in what became those counties may be recorded in parent counties.
 
Q: How are the early birth cards (1900 to 1907) different from later birth certificates?  
Birth certificates are filed out at or just after the time of birth, usually by the family or their doctor/midwife/nurse.  Birth cards are transcripts of birth information that were compiled at a later time by the Minnesota Department of Health.  
 
Q: What information is on a birth card (1900 - 1907)?    
Unlike birth certificates, many birth cards were filled out very incompletely.  A completed card includes the child’s full name, sex, race, date of birth, and place of birth; the father’s name, age, occupation, and place of birth; the mother’s maiden name, age, occupation, place of birth, and number of previous children; the name and address of the attending physician or midwife; and the name and address of the person providing information about the birth.  You can see an example of a birth card here.
 
Q: What information is on a birth certificate (1907 - 1934)?
Information on a birth certificate may include: first, middle, and last name; sex; race; date and place of birth; father’s name, age, occupation, and place of birth; mother’s maiden name, age, occupation, and place of birth; the number of previous children born to this mother; name and address of the attending physician or midwife; name and address of the person providing information about the birth; and the certificate number.  The forms are not always complete, so not all of this information will be on every certificate.  You can see an example of a birth certificate here.
 
Q: How were the birth certificates created?
When someone was born, a physician or midwife compiled information about the child on a birth certificate. The certificate was registered with the local county registrar and the original copy was sent to the Office of Vital Statistics at the Minnesota Department of Health. The Vital Statistics staff ensured that the information was complete and that it met the state’s standards, and then the certificate at the Department of Health became the official, permanent record.
 
Q: How can I find information on a post-1934 Minnesota birth?
A variety of concerns about individual privacy, identity theft, and national security all inform decisions about access to vital records.
 
 FamilySearch.org has a free online index to MN births from 1935 - 2002.  This provides very basic, public information: child’s name, parents’ names, birthdate, and county of birth.  To get more information or a copy of a post-1935 certificate, you can request one from a county vital statistics or registrar's office or the state Department of Health.  

 

Birth Records Search Tips

Visit our Search Help: People Finder page for general search tips and then try these special hints that apply to Birth Records: 
  • To limit your results to just Birth Records, select the Birth Certificate Index filter under Narrow by Collection.  
  • Try alternate spellings. Names may have been spelled differently, or this name may have simply been transcribed or entered incorrectly into the index.
  • Try searching without a first (given) name specified or filtered.  Some parents completed records without chosing a name first, leading to a blank space or a first name like "Baby Boy" or "Girl."
  • This index references the county of birth, which may be different than the family's county of residence.  If you don't find a record under the expected county, try using a Narrow by Place filter to search neighboring/nearby counties or counties where the parents had family. 
  • Use a Narrow by Related Name filter to select the mother's maiden name (keep in mind that not all birth records have the mother's maiden name included)
  • If you know the exact certificate number, search for it using quotations like "1902-19875"
  • Make full use of options like SoundEx and wildcards (? and #).  
  • Adjust the date or range of dates using the filters. Broaden the date range of your search to include more years or search across all years.
  • Notice that your results are sorted by "Closest Match" by default.  You can switch to two different chronological sorts (oldest first or newest first) and this can make browsing easier.  
Q: What is SoundEx?
Soundex is an indexing system based on how a surname sounds rather than how it is spelled, so it enables one-step searching for variant spellings of a names.  For example, using Soundex on Anderson would return results like Andreson, Andersen, Anderstrom, Andreason, Anderton.  SoundEx is based on the first letter of the last name, so it is crucial that this letter is known and has been correctly transcribed from documents. 
 
Q: How do I use SoundEx?
Our search systems have SoundEx filtering capability, but it is important to note that this is NOT the same as a straight-forward SoundEx search in other systems. 
 
To search using SoundEx on a last name:
  • Search for a name--first, last, or full--in the main search box. 
  • Click on in the left-hand column.  
  • If you do not see the name you are seeking, click on Show More under the short list of names.       
  • Find the last name from the list and click the  button next to it.  
  • If you used a last or full name for your search, erase the last name from the "Term" box in the Your Search area at the top of the left-hand column. Then click the search button.

  • You can now add other filters, search terms, etc. in the left-hand column.  As long as there is a "Family Name Soundex" filter listed in the "Your Search" area, the SoundEx filter will be applied.
  • To remove the SoundEx filter, click the x next to it.  

       
 
Q: Are there any special tips for finding birth certificates for American Indians?
All births were subject to the same reporting requirements, but it appears that many American Indians' births were not recorded in MN state records, especially during the period from 1900 to 1918.  This may be because many of these children were born at home and home births were often not recorded properly.  
  • Some births can be found in county birth records, but not state records.  
  • For births that occurred on Indian reservations researchers may wish to contact the federal government archives.  
  • Try searching all possible variants of a name.  Many American Indian birth certificates contain Ojibwe- or Dakota-language names or a combination of Dakota/Ojibwe and Anglicized versions. 
  • Some were categorized separately and have unusual certificate numbers.  See also "What do the letter prefixes before the certificate number mean?
Q: Can MNHS staff research Birth Certificates for me?
We can help you place an order if you are having difficulty and we are more than happy to give you search advice, but we do not have the staff or resources to do in-depth research for our patrons.   
 

Order Help

Q: How can I order a copy of a Birth Certificate?
Order a non-certified copy directly through the online search system.  Click on the “buy” button to select and then order through our online store.  The cost is $9, plus any applicable sales tax.  
 
Q: If I order a copy, how will it be delivered? 
You will receive an order-confirmation email which includes links to the images of the certificates you ordered. If you ordered with a credit card, the email with links will be sent almost instantaneously.  If you opt to mail your payment, we will process your order after it arrives.  The Minnesota Historical Society does not mail out paper copies of birth certificates; all birth record orders are filled via email.
 
Q: I ordered a Birth Certificate, but it never arrived in my in-box.  Where is it?
The email may have gotten caught in a spam or junk-mail filter set up by either you or by your email provider.  Check your junk or spam folder for the message, but if you still do not see the message, contact the Library  (copyservices@mnhs.org) and we will re-send your image(s) in a different way.  
 
Q: Why does it cost $9 to get a copy of a Birth Record from MNHS?
The Minnesota Department of Health has set the fee for a copy of a non-certified birth record at $9. The Minnesota Historical Society is complying with this price, as do all the county registrars/public health offices.  MNHS members do not get a discount on Birth Records.  
 
Q; Can I see a Birth Certificate without paying for it?
Yes, on-site researchers can view birth certificates on any public computer in the Gale Family Library’s Weyerhaeuser Reading Room.  
 
Q: Where can I get a certified copy of a Birth Certificate?  
MNHS cannot provide certified or “official” copies, but you can request one from a county's vital statistics/registrar's office or the state Department of Health. Because certification is designed to prevent fraud--such as identity theft--you must submit an application to establish that you have a “tangible interest” in a certificate. See the Department of Health’s website for more information.  

 

Usual Circumstances

Q: What should I do if I find an error in the index?
While both the Minnesota Department of Health and the Minnesota Historical Society are greatly concerned with the quality of the index, not all errors can be corrected. Information in original records cannot be changed in the index, even if it is incorrect, but you can leave a user comment.  User comments are searchable and can help other researchers.  
 
If you find a transcription error (as opposed to an error on the certificate itself), please send the certificate number and description of the error to birthrecords@mnhs.org so the index can be corrected.
 
Q: Why can’t I find a Birth Certificate that I know should be there?
  • Certain records are excluded: Most notably, original records for adopted children and out of wedlock births that are less than 100 years old are not listed.  (Following the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act--MN Statutes, chapter 13.10, Subd 2.) For certificates not indexed here, researchers must contact the Minnesota Department of Health or the county of birth [links].
  • Incomplete or incorrect original record: People providing information about birth often forget to include certain pieces of data or they may have not chosen the child’s name yet.   It is also not unusual to find misspellings in older records of all types.
  • Transcription errors: Creating a database index is not exact science and mistakes can be made when people type in information, especially if the original record has poor handwriting.  If you suspect an error, please email birthrecords@mnhs.org
  • See Birth Records Search Tips for specific search hints

 

Q: What do the letter prefixes before the certificate number mean? 
Occasionally a two-letter code will appear instead of a year at the beginning of a certificate number, indicating one of four special units of birth certificates.  Note: the individual represented in the special unit may also have a regularly numbered birth certificate.  The codes are:
  • DC: “Delayed Certificate” indicates that the certificate was not recorded with the Minnesota Department of Health in a timely manner, but was filed well after the birth.  These certificates usually give the name of the individual attesting to the accuracy of the data (usually an older relative) and may include references to documents (e.g., baptismal certificate, school record, census record) used as supporting evidence. These supplemental documents are not considered part of the record by the Department of Health and are not available from the Minnesota Historical Society.
  • SV: “Supplemental Certificate” indicates that the certificate is a replacement for an earlier record that was on file. The supplemental certificate may have been the result of an adoption or a legal determination of parentage and lack the original signatures of a doctor or other individual attesting to the birth. In most cases, the “original” certificate is not included in the index and is not available from MNHS.
  • PR: “Pre-1900” records, usually cards, are for births that occurred before 1900 and for which delayed certificates appear not to have been regularly filed. It is unknown why these certificates were filed with the MN Dept. of Health and kept separately from the delayed certificates described above. These records represent a very small proportion pre-1900 births. See “Where can I find pre-1900 Birth Records?" for more information.  
  • IN: “Indian” birth certificates were created for some individuals of American Indian heritage unknown reasons for and filed separately by the Minnesota Department of Health. These certificates contain data similar to that in the main series of birth certificates. The IN set includes only a small number of the American Indians births in the state; others may be found in the main record series. See “How can I find birth certificates for American Indians?” for more information.
Q: Why does the mother’s maiden name field contain first names?
The mother’s maiden name is one of the most commonly omitted or incorrectly recorded pieces of information on birth certificates.  Frequently only the first name is provided and rather than leave this field blank, we are listing whatever information is available from the certificate.  
 
The rule was to enter the last part of the mother’s maiden name as it appears on the document.  For example, if "Jane Doe" was listed on the certificate, then "Doe" would be entered in the mother’s maiden name field. However, if only "Jane" appeared on the certificate then "Jane" was entered in the index. If no information was provided, the field was left blank.
 
Q: Can I see the attachments, correction files, etc. mentioned on the certificate? 
No. MNHS scanned the birth records under a contract with--and according to the directions of--the Minnesota Department of Health. What is online on the Society's web site is the complete record per the Department's definitions. While this may not comprise all of the information that a researcher wants to find, it is all the information that is available.
 
Q: Does the Birth Certificate Index reflect corrections made to birth records?
All corrections made to paper certificates before 1 January 2001 are included.  For access to certificates with corrections made after 1 January 2001, contact the Minnesota Department of Health.