Minnesota Birth Records — Help/About

Minnesota Birth Records — Help/About

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Help/About the Records

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About MN Birth Records Online

Q: How can I search for Minnesota Birth Records online?   
Use the Minnesota People Records Search.  The search defaults to searching multiple record types, so if you want to search only birth records, click the check-marks to remove the others.  

Q: Can I still search for Birth Records using the search.mnhs.org search box (in the top-right of MNHS webpages)?   
Yes.  However, the Minnesota People Records Search was specifically designed to be an easier and more effective search tool for records about people.  

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: What will the online index tell me?   
First, middle, and last name of the child; birthdate; county of birth; mother’s maiden name; and certificate number.  Anything missing from the original record (often first and middle names) will not appear in the index.

Q: How can I see a full birth record that is in the online index?

  • Visit the Gale Family Library in person: Certificates can be viewed on all Reading Room computers  
  • Order a copy: Click on the blue "Buy" button to start the purchase process

Q: Where can I find pre-1900 Birth Records?

  • A few pre-1900 births are in the online system
  • The Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS) 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
  • MNHS 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 filled 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, birth date, and county of birth.  To get more information or a copy of a post-1934 certificate, you can request one from a county vital statistics or registrar's office or the state Department of Health.   

Search Tips for Birth Records

  • Try searching without a first name specified: Some parents completed records without choosing a name, leading to a blank space or a first name like "Baby Boy" or "Girl."
  • County of birth:
    • This location may be different from the family's county of residence.  
    • If you don't find a record under the expected county, try searching in neighboring/nearby counties or counties where the parents had family.
    • Some Minnesota counties were established after 1908. Pennington County was formed in 1910 from Red Lake County, and Lake of the Woods County was formed in 1922 from Beltrami County. As a result, the record of a birth in Baudette in 1920 was recorded in Beltrami County but one in 1923 in Lake of the Woods County.
  • Try alternate spellings: Names may have been spelled differently, or the name may have simply been transcribed or entered incorrectly into the index.
  • Use the power of the “Starts with” search: Try using one--or just a few--of the beginning letters of a first or last name.  Particularly helpful for names that can be spelled different ways or were easily misunderstood by clerks.   
  • Try other search options: The search defaults to Starts With, but the other options (Sounds Like, Contains, Exactly, etc.) can be helpful
  • Mother’s maiden name: If you know the mother’s maiden name, you can use the Related Name field, but keep in mind that not all birth records have the mother's maiden name included, not all records have a maiden name recorded, and some records have a first name, rather than a last name.  See “Why does the mother’s maiden name field contain first names?” for more information.
  • Exact certificate number: If you know it, search using a year-certificate format: 1902-19875
  • Sorting results: Results are initially sorted alphabetically by last name.  Switch to a chronological sort by clicking on the date label at the top of the column.  Clicking the date label again will reverse the list so the newest records are first.
  • If you believe that the certificate was not included in the index, see “Why can’t I find a Birth Certificate that I know should be there?”

Special tips for finding birth certificates for Dakota and Ojibwe people   
All births were subject to the same reporting requirements, but it appears that many American Indians' births were not recorded in Minnesota 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.  

  • 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 births can be found in county birth records, but not state records.  County records are not included in the online search, but researchers can search the library catalog or contact Reference Staff to determine if a particular county's birth records are in the State Archives at MNHS or if they are still held by the county.
  • For births that occurred on reservations researchers may wish to contact the National Archives  
  • Some certificates were categorized separately and have unusual certificate numbers.  See also “What do the letter prefixes before the certificate number mean?”  

Q: Can I edit my search without starting over?   
Yes!  Scroll up to the search area.  Add, change, or remove information from the boxes, and then click the Search button.  Your new results will be below.  

Q: How does searching for multiple record-types impact my search?   
If you are searching for more than one type of record, there are a few things that change:

  • Dates: The record-types cover different periods of time, as listed next to their names in the search area.  If you search for a record type in a time period for which there are no records (census records after 1905, for example) you will get no results for that type of record. 
  • Available search fields: You may see search fields that only apply to some records.  For example, neither State Census nor Veterans’ Graves Registrations use the Middle Name field.  If a record-type does not use a field, the search ignores it for that type.  So if you search for Death and State Census records for John James Smith, the death search tab will have results with all 3 names but the census search tab will have all the John Smiths.

Q: How does the Sounds Like search work?    
“Sounds Like” searches use Soundex, an indexing system based on how a name sounds rather than how it is spelled. It enables one-step searching for alternate spellings.  Soundex will find some names that are very close in spelling (Anderson, Andersen, and Andreson, for example), as well as names that are different in spelling but are pronounced similarly or have similar base consonants (O’Brien, Obring, Overom, and Obermann, for example). 

Because Soundex utilizes the first letter of a name, it is crucial that this letter is known and has been correctly transcribed from documents (for example, Yorgeson and Jorgeson may be pronounced the same, but will not show up in the same “sounds like” search).  

Q: What are the results under the Comments tab?    
They are comments left by users like you!  Researchers can comment on any record and often leave information about alternate spellings, nicknames, etc. that can help other researchers.  The system searches the full text of comments, and clicking on a comment in the results page will open the full index record.  Please feel free to leave any comments that you think would be helpful to other researchers.  

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.  You can contact our Reference Staff by phone (651-259-3300), or through email or Facebook.  

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. Links to birth certificate images will be active for 14 days after they are sent. Please save and/or print image(s) as soon as possible. The Minnesota Historical Society does not mail out paper copies of birth certificates; all birth record orders are filled via email.

Q: I waited too long to download/print the birth certificate and the link doesn't work anymore. What should I do?   
Links to birth certificate images will be active for only 14 days after they are sent. If you miss this window, contact the Library  (copyservices@mnhs.org or 651-259-3300) with your order number.

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.  

Unusual 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 peoplesearch@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 were purposefully excluded: Most notably, original records for adopted children and out of wedlock births that are less than 100 years old are not included, per Minnesota statutes.  For certificates not indexed at MNHS, researchers should contact the Minnesota Department of Health or the county of birth's registrar/vital statistics office.
  • Incomplete or incorrect original records: 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 peoplesearch@mnhs.org
  • See the Search Tips above for hints specific to birth records and/or contact Reference Staff for assistance

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 Minnesota Department 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 and filed separately by the Minnesota Department of Health. The reason for this is unknown, but 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 "Special tips for finding birth certificates for Dakota and Ojibwe people" 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, whatever information is available on the certificate has been listed.  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 on the MNHS’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.    


More Help

If you have any questions, please contact the Reference staff at the Gale Family Library by phone (651-259-3300), via email, or through Facebook.