A state notification of birth registration is good enough to qualify for federal Social Security benefits, but an Official Birth Certificate is required to apply for a marriage license in Manitowac, Wisconsin. I didn't know that!
After Warren Bittner's session on Complex Evidence at SCGS12 last weekend, I started reviewing some of my source documents and discovered that an official state-issued "Notification of Birth Registration" is not a Birth Certificate, although it is an acceptable substitute in some situations, and in some states.
Evidently, this fairly-common document has had a bit of head-scratching attention from other researchers. Linda McCauley at Documenting the Details and messages on the RootsWeb APG board show that this perplexing document has been pondered before. Linda encountered a version of this document issued by the Bureau of the Census.
I have similar documents issued by the Census Bureau and by the State of California for my father, my mother, and myself. I have always used this notification in lieu of an official birth certificate. The reverse side of my own "Notification" states
This Notification is Valuable
It shows that the Certificate of Birth for your child has been legally filed. It may be used for identification school admission, working permits and for other purposes. A certified copy of the birth certificate may be obtained from your Local Registrar of Vital Statistics, County Recorder, or the State Registrar of Vital Statistics upon payment of a fee of $1.00.
In the State of California, a notification of birth document will get you
- a Social Security Card
- enrolled in school
However, it won't help you obtain
- a driver's license from the California DMV
- a U. S. Passport from the U.S. Census Bureau
- a scholarship through the San Gabriel Valley Junior All Amerian Football College Scholarship program
Present-day concern about identification theft and Homeland Security has made these state-issued notifications less useful today for official identification than they were 50 or 60 years ago. Nowadays, these documents seem to be used mainly to acknowledge a birth registration and give parents an opportunity to correct any errors that may have occurred in the recording the information.
Fraudulent "novelty birth records" have become so prevalent that the Social Security website includes several scanned images to illustrate some of the more creative versions.
None of these would cut the mustard if you wanted to be married in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. The instruction leaflet for how to obtain a marriage license distinctly states
Required Documents Presented to Staff: "Hospital Birth Certificates (with the imprints of your feet) and State Notification of Birth Registration are not acceptable; they are not legal documents."
Which leaves us with a "valuable" document that has no legal status. No wonder it's confusing, especially because, as Dee Dee King noted on the Root's Web APG mailing list, "Despite the Census Bureau disclaimer that this is not a duck, it sure appears to quack like one. ;-)"
Next: This particular type of source doesn't seem to be modeled in Elizabeth Shown Mills' Evidence Explained, so I am trying to determine the most correct citation format. Ideas? Linda McCauley suggests Family Artifact. What do you think?