The process of obtaining a copy of your birth certificate is typically rather seamless (though it does take some time). But if you were adopted, especially as part of a closed adoption, getting that original birth certificate can be a bit more tricky. 

Do you need your original birth certificate?

The first thing to ask yourself is whether you actually need the original birth certificate from when you were born. If your goal is to provide proof of citizenship for any reason, you should have a birth certificate that was issued when your adoption was finalized. 

If, on the other hand, you’re trying to track down your birth parents, you may want to get your hands on the birth certificate that was issued when you were born. If you were part of a closed adoption, this document was sealed at the time of your adoption. 

Sealing birth certificates with closed adoptions was a standard process in many states to try to protect the confidentiality of birth mothers. 

Reasons to Obtain an Original Birth Certificate

Connecting with original birth parents is one of the most common reasons for someone to want to obtain an original birth certificate, but it’s not the only reason. 

You may want answers on your birth name, your actual date of birth, or your biological family history. Essentially, the reasons can range from personal to essential — and you may also have a combination of reasons why you want your original birth certificate. 

If you can get your hands on this document, it’ll be relatively easy for a private investigator to find your birth parents. 

As part of the adoption process, some states require that parents fill out a form that states whether they’d be open to being contacted with the child. 

How to get a copy of your birth certificate

Fortunately, the process of obtaining a birth certificate has become a lot easier in recent years — even for closed adoptions. As of 2015, only 25 U.S. states require a court order for birth certificates on closed adoptions. 

But even if you live in one of the 25 states that require a court order, it’s possible to get your original birth certificate. 

Step One

Contact the county clerk in the area where you were adopted. This is the best place to start to obtain your original birth certificate. The rules may vary based on where you are, but you should find the county clerk to be a helpful ally in navigating the process of accessing these vital records.

Step Two

If you do need to petition the court, you can also get the forms at the county clerk’s office. From there, you’ll need to complete the form, file with the court clerk, and wait for a court date. When you receive your court date, you can expect to meet with a judge to discuss your case.

Step Three

The judge may ask why you need access to these sealed files, and any judge is likely to grant access in the case of an emergency, such as a medical reason. For example, if you have a medical condition where you need biological family history, a judge will likely grant access immediately. In situations that aren’t as time-sensitive, you may need to obtain a confidential intermediary to access the sealed files. 

The adoption process does make finding your original birth certificate a bit more tricky, but it’s definitely possible. Start with your county clerk and go from there. It’s easier in some states than others, but don’t lose hope.