Here are four real life examples (from my family tree) of why you might need to order a birth certificate for one of your ancestors.
Often I find that it is not necessary to order a birth certificate to move your family history forward (or backward). Names of parents and often exact birth dates can often be found in other sources like baptism registers.
All the four examples relate to finding the individual’s parents, rather than finding an exact place or date of birth, which will not necessarily be the key to moving your family tree to the next stage.
Illegitimacy – my grandfather was illegitimate and no-one knew his father’s name, or even if he had known it, and it was too late to ask. In a situation like this it is important to check every possible source for clues. Times changed, and what had been forgotten (or hidden) now, may have been well known and recorded almost a century ago. Unfortunately in this case his father was not named on the certificate, but you never know unless you check.
Conflicting Information – my great grandmother didn’t look like she was going to cause me any problems. We (that is the family) knew who her parents were and she was shown as their daughter on the census. However when I found her baptism record she had different parents, her aunt and uncle! Her birth certificate showed that her parents were who we thought they should be, so why the baptism was different is still a mystery.
To Reach the Census Years – the problem with my other grandfather was that he was born after the latest census that was available at the time, so although I had a pretty good idea who and where his parents were and could find them in the census, before I could go any further I had to make sure I was heading in the right direction, especially as the surname was quite common.
Parents Died Young – my grandmother’s parents had both died relatively young (her father died when she was about five and her mother when she was around sixteen) so details about them were understandably vague, and again it was too late to ask anyone. Her birth certificate was enough to get my research started.
This is only the tip of the iceberg, there are probably many other good reasons which you have come across in your research, please feel free to share them in a comment below.