Birth certificates may vary slightly in appearance from state to state, but there is certain information that must be included on all birth certificates for them to be accepted as official documents by the U.S. government. The birth certificate must have a person's date of birth, place of birth, full birth name, the date the certificate was filed, the registrar's signature and the official seal of the issuing agency.
Birth certificates may also contain the name of the doctor who delivered the individual, the parents' names and the mother's maiden name. The person's gender and vital statistics, such as birth weight and height, are also commonly included . It can sometimes include either the person's hand or footprint as well as the mother's fingerprint.
When a birth certificate is filed, a number is usually assigned to it. The number may be an arbitrary number or an actual reflection of the numerical order in which that birth occurred in that jurisdiction. When an individual applies for a birth record, an official copy is issued.
As of 2014, birth records are a matter of public record, and anyone with the name and birth date of an individual may apply for and obtain a copy of that person's birth certificate. A fee is typically charged for this service.