Birth Records Search Example for Ancestor Research

Starting With a Family Story

I started researching my ancestry in the late 1970s. A great aunt, who was considered the authority on our family history, told me that her grandparents—my great-grandparents—were Ted and Delilah Burns and that Delilah's maiden name was Hall. She also said that her mother's first name was Cora, but she also went by Corinda. Finally, my great aunt told me that Cora's maiden name was Burns and that she was born at Hall's Landing in West Virginia. My great-aunt did not have a birth date for Cora.

My Great-Grandmother Cora/Corinda

I started with Cora/Corinda and thought I could work my way back. First, I needed to find out when she was born. Since I did not have an obituary, I turned to the 1900 U. S. Census. That census provides the month and year of birth. I also knew approximately where they were living at the time since I grew up in the same area.

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1900 Census for Cora and John Barry
1900 Census for Cora and John Barry

Verifying the Information in the 1900 Census

I could verify that this is the right family. I knew the family's last name is Barry since that is my last name and that my great-grandfather's first name was John. The oldest child listed is "Erwin." That is a misspelling of my grandfather's name of Irwin. The second oldest child is Edith who was the great-aunt I spoke with about the family history.

Finding a County to Request a Birth Record

Before I could request a birth record from West Virginia, however, I needed the county where Cora was born. Records from 1867 could only be requested from the county clerks. Birth records for West Virginia were not kept at the state level until 1917. My great-aunt mentioned that Cora was born at Hall's Landing. I wrote to several libraries in West Virginia seeking information on the location of Hall's Landing to find the county in which it was located (this was pre-Internet after all). Several wrote back that they could not find Hall's Landing on their maps, but one librarian found this entry in a 1916 U.S. Army publication on the Ohio River. It shows Hall's Landing is in Mason County:

Hall's Landing, Mason County, West Virginia
Hall's Landing, Mason County, West Virginia

My Great-Grandmother's Birth Certificate

I wrote the County Clerk of Mason County and obtained this birth record:

Birth Certificate for Corinda Burns
Birth Certificate for Corinda Burns

Using the Internet for the Same Search

In the late 1970s, it took several weeks to obtain this birth certificate. Today, this type of search is a lot easier. For example, I searched for Corinda Burns using the birth year of 1867 in West Virginia obtained from the 1900 U. S. Census and found this in less than a minute:

Birth Record for Corinda Burns
Birth Record for Corinda Burns

Unexpected Information in This Record

The above record also shows that Corinda was not the first child of Theodore and Delilah Burns. Their first child was either stillborn or died shortly after birth since he was not named.

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