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The History of Birth Certificates is Shorter Than You Might Think

The History of Birth Certificates is Shorter Than You Might Think


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Where’s your birth certificate? It’s likely stashed in a filing cabinet along with other important documents or tucked in a safety deposit box, a testament to the significance of what might otherwise be mistaken for a simple piece of paper. But people didn’t always need birth certificates, or even a record of their own birth—and the history of birth certificates is much shorter than you might think.

For centuries, births and deaths were documented in church records, not government ones. And early attempts in America to get the government involved in recording births stalled. In 1632, Virginia’s General Assembly passed a law that required all ministers to keep track of christenings, marriages and burials, but the practice died almost immediately because it was so foreign to church officials. Massachusetts passed a 1639 law requiring towns to do the same thing, but records remained patchy and inaccurate.

Part of the reason was the messy process of childbirth itself: Women birthed children at home or in friends’ houses, and many did not survive infancy or childhood. If a child did not live to be baptized, was enslaved or moved from place to place, its birth might not be recorded at all—or its memory might live on only in a family Bible or its mother’s memory.

But during the Progressive Era, reformers decided it was time for a change. Their interest in all kinds of data—especially facts and figures about births and deaths—arose during the height of European immigration to the United States. Thirty million Europeans poured into the country between 1815 and 1915, and urban areas struggled to keep up with the influx. They crowded into tenements and poor neighborhoods, straining the few resources cities had.

Reformers, many of them affluent women, set to work tackling the “immigrant problem.” They hoped that by counting and characterizing the people who lived in cities, they could illustrate the extent of the problem and figure out ways to tackle it. Statistics, they thought, could also illustrate more modern ways to solve public health problems and optimize city life.

And so the Progressive craze for counting began. Reformers made maps of ethnicities, lists of the unemployed. But when it came to public health, they lacked data. They began to pressure the U.S. Bureau of the Census to register all births.

The Bureau began to roll out standardized birth certificates in different areas of the country, and states gradually adopted them, but early birth certificates didn’t look like they do now. They captured only a brief outline of the child’s identity and its parents. And since hospital deliveries were not yet common, the system still missed a large percentage of people born at home.

It also failed to do away with a worrisome problem: the risk of a child being switched or lost track of after birth. Early maternity wards did not have stringent identification policies. As historian Judith Walzer Leavitt writes, mothers worried they would go home with the wrong baby—and sometimes they did.

It took a world war to finally give birth certificates the push they needed to become universal. During World War II, defense-related plants began to hire in unprecedented numbers—but by law, they could only hire American citizens. This created a crisis for the estimated 43 million native-born Americans—nearly one third of the country—who couldn’t prove when—and where—they were born. At the time, the article estimated, 200,000 people were born every year without getting a birth certificate.

Magazines and newspapers began to try to educate people on the need for birth certificates—but warned of the difficulty of getting one during wartime. “A birth certificate is a good thing to have,” explained a 1942 article in Good Housekeeping. “Please do not apply for a birth certificate today unless you absolutely must have one.”

The normalization of the birth certificate process, however, was not without its societal difficulties. As the New Republic’s Liza Mundy explains, the national system of issuing two birth certificates for adopted children—one listing their birth parents, one listing their adoptive parents—then sealing the original birth certificate, made the system “party to one of our culture’s biggest collective lies.” Adoptive parents could pretend adoptive families were biological ones—and today, children must still petition for their own original birth certificates and adoptive records in many states.

As the social welfare state expanded, so did the need for birth certificates. In 1946, the National Office of Vital Statistics took over birth certificates nationally. These days, they prove eligibility for things like Social Security, Medicaid, and public programs like WIC (offering food and nutrition to women, mothers and young children) that might make a Progressive-Era reformer proud.


Obama Revealed More Than His Birth Certificate Last Year

When President Obama released his long-form Certificate of Live Birth on Apr. 27, 2011, (Picture 1), everyone in the press and the public had forgotten about the other birth certificate he released in 2008: the short-form Certification of Live Birth that his campaign staff posted on its website (Picture 2).

Long-Form Certificate of Live Birth

Short-Form Certification of Live Birth

. Everyone, that is, except Obama, his White House staff and legal counsel, and CNN.

At a press conference held the day before, 4/26/2011, a CNN reporter confronted Jay Carney with the following:

Jay, my colleague, Gary Tuchman, just went to Hawaii and established again that there's evidence suggesting that the President was born in the United States. However, Trump and others keep saying that that's not the actual birth certificate, and as you know, Hawaii Department of Health says that you can request a birth certificate you put in a Freedom of Information request, and within a few weeks, you'll get a copy out of the vault. Why doesn't the President do that?

On April 25, CNN had shown Part 1 of a two-part, two-day investigation into Obama's birth certificate. (The network had shown Part 2 on April 26.) The investigation focused exclusively on the short-form while briefly noting that the original vault birth certificate was still available to Hawaiians, but a person had to file a Freedom of Information Act and wait three to four weeks before receiving it. CNN insisted that the short-form was more legal than the long-form because the long-form "is no longer certified for use."

As for Carney, he angrily responded to CNN that "[t]his is a settled issue. The birth certificate that the campaign put up online has been available for everyone to see around the globe." Carney knew that two copies of Obama's long-form birth certificate had arrived two days earlier, but he kept silent on this fact until the following day, when a special press briefing, known as a "Press Gaggle," was held just prior to Obama's official press conference. No recording devices or photography was permitted. Only paper-and-pencil notes. (Banning physical recordings? What ever happened to transparency?)

The briefing was actually led by Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer, with Carney and White House Counsel Robert Bauer there for support. After copies of the long-form and short-form birth certificates were handed out, Pfeiffer began to double down on the importance of the short-form according to Pfeiffer, "the original birth certificate that the President requested and we posted online in 2008" had settled the issue of his birth place and presidential eligibility.

Pfeiffer then provided the press with a brief history of the short-form birth certificate:

In 2008, in response to media inquiries, the President's campaign requested his birth certificate from the state of Hawaii. We received that document we posted it on the website. . To be clear, the document we presented on the President's website in 2008 is his birth certificate.

When Robert Bauer got up to speak, one of the reporters asked him, "Bob, can you explain why President Obama let this drag on for four years? Was it Donald Trump who prompted you to issue this?" One month earlier, Trump was a guest on the TV show The View and had asked, "Why does Obama refuse to show his long-form birth certificate?"

Bauer let Pfeiffer, now noticeably more frustrated, answer the question:

I don't think this dragged on for four years because this was a resolved -- for those of you who remember the campaign, this issue was resolved in 2008. And it has not been an issue, none of you have asked about it, called about it, reported on it until the last few weeks.

It was hardly a settled issue, though, since the short-form is what prompted calls for the release of the hospital-issued long-form birth certificate. Since June 2008, there have been more than 80 lawsuits filed to get it released and $2 million spent by Obama to keep it hidden.

Obviously, the White House wanted to make everyone think that the long-form birth certificate was "an unnecessary distraction," since his birth in Hawaii was a "settled issue" in 2008. When Obama finally arrived at the podium to discuss the release of his long-form birth certificate, he would never mention it by name. In his opening remarks, he said, "As many of you have been briefed, we provided additional information today about the site of my birth." He did mention, however, that "[w]e've posted the Certification that is given by the state of Hawaii on the Internet for everybody to see. People have provided affidavits that they, in fact, have seen this birth certificate."

This was the first time that Obama had ever personally stated, on national TV, that he had posted his birth certificate on the internet "for everybody to see" -- for everybody, that is, except Obama, who never said that he saw it. Anyone watching CNN the night before also had a chance to see it.

Here is a video capture from CNN's "Birther investigation" broadcast on April 26, 2011:

It shows two digital photos of the Certification taken by Factcheck.org in August 2008. According to the White House, this is the same Certification that Obama requested and received in June 2008, of which he had a scan copy posted on his website. The photo on the left is the back-side of the Certification, which the campaign refused to scan -- and we can see why.

It has a date-stamp of "June 6, 2007," the date that the form was issued. The form itself is also a 2007 Certification of Live Birth (COLB) because, in 2008, the design of the form was significantly changed.


OBAMA'S "2007" CERTIFICATION
(arrow points to date-stamp printed on other side)

A GENUINE 2007 CERTIFICATION
(arrow points to date-stamp printed on other side)

A GENUINE 2007 CERTIFICATION
(Reverse side with official stamps)

A GENUINE 2008 CERTIFICATION
(arrow points to date-stamp printed on other side)

A GENUINE 2008 CERTIFICATION
(Reverse side with official stamps)

SECTION OF GENUINE 2008 CERTIFICATION ON TOP OF OBAMA'S "2007" CERTIFICATION

The scans listed herein are genuine 2007 and 2008 COLBs with their 2007 or 2008 date-stamps. The composite image above is a section of a genuine 2008 COLB overlaid on Obama's Certification to highlight how different the borders and the text placements are.

These images prove that what Obama posted on the internet was an image of a 2007 COLB or short-form birth certificate, date-stamped June 6, 2007, and not a genuine scan copy of a genuine 2008 short-form. Had Obama ordered and received a short-form COLB in 2008, it would look like the 2008 COLB with the open border and realigned text as in the overlay above and have a date-stamp of June 6, 2008, not June 6, 2007.

From June 2008 until April 2011, the Hawaii Health Department refused to confirm that they had issued a short-form birth certificate to Obama or anyone acting on his behalf. They refused to authenticate the scan image posted on Obama's web site and the photos posted on Factcheck.org. Dr. Jerry Corsi, of World Net Daily, was the first to report that Hawaii refused to authenticate the online COLB. The reasons should be obvious by now: they never produced a genuine 2008 Certification of Live Birth for Obama, or even a genuine 2007 Certification of Live Birth hence, there was nothing to authenticate.

The only way Obama or anyone could get a 2007 COLB, date-stamped June 6, 2007, in June 2008 is to have one forged, and that is exactly what they did. Normally, if you wanted to authenticate a birth document, you would have a forensic document expert compare the forged facsimile with the real document. However, if no real document exists, then there is nothing for a forensic document examiner to examine.

If Obama's short-form birth certificate does not exist, then any images of it cannot be authentic, either. However, how does one prove it? The first step is to answer the question, "Was the online image made naturally by an image scanner using a genuine paper COLB, or was it fabricated by human intervention and graphics software?"

I spent six months in 2009 reverse-engineering the online image to determine exactly how it was made. I attempted to make it naturally using three different scanners and three genuine 2007 COLBs. After several hundred hours of making trial images, I concluded that no scanner on the planet could ever have made the Obama COLB image, and the image did not look like any genuine 2007 COLB ever made. This was a one-of-a-kind image that Factcheck photographed as a printout and not as a real paper birth certificate.

After deconstructing Obama's online COLB image, I forensically reconstructed an exact duplicate of it using Adobe Photoshop. The reason why I created a clone of Obama's online COLB was to achieve two objectives.

First, it demonstrated that the online image was a fabrication made by someone using pieces of other people's COLBs and then assembled to look like an original 2007 COLB. I created a video on how I reconstructed it and posted it on my YouTube channel.

Secondly, I wanted to demonstrate that a person looking at my COLB clone could not tell it apart from Obama's COLB. I managed to get my image listed by Snopes.com as being Obama's actual COLB, and it worked. Millions of people have viewed it, posted links to it, and commented that my forgery was sufficient proof that Obama was born in Hawaii.

I started writing about Obama's COLB from the first day the Obama campaign posted it. I included a high-resolution copy of the image on my blog, and Snopes decided to post a link to it instead of linking to the original image posted on the Obama campaign website.

At the Press Gaggle, the White House distributed to reporters copies of both the long-form birth certificate and the short-form birth certificate. Although both certificates were printed on the same kind of green-patterned security paper, the copies given to the media had no backgrounds. The long-form birth certificate was a high-resolution bluish copy, while the short-form was a low-resolution black-and-white copy taken from a printout of the Obama COLB as shown on the Snopes website. The Snopes printout is on the White House website, and the COLB image is the one I made, and not one by the campaign. More proof that the campaign never had a genuine paper short-form to scan and post.

Xerox copy of a printout made from a web page found on Snopes.com

The White House also used a black-and-white printout from the Snopes web page to hide the fact that they had posted a 2007 COLB, and not a 2008 COLB as repeatedly reported.

At the end of his press conference, Obama told his audience, "I don't have time for sideshows and distractions. I have better things to do." With that, he left the Brady Room, boarded Air Force One with Michelle, and flew to Chicago so that they could go on Oprah and discuss the "outing of the birth certificate," as Oprah had described it.

When her show began, Oprah said that "[b]y the time this show airs, everyone will have seen your hospital-issued birth certificate which people started asking about two and a half years ago." It was at that moment that Michelle blurted out, "It's been four years!," confirming the fact that many people had been asking to see his original birth certificate since 2007.

CNN was not done promulgating the importance of the short-form birth certificate. On May 30, 2012, they rebroadcast Part 2 of their April 2011 "Birther report" -- this time with a new title, "Busting the Birther Conspiracy Theory," and a new, fraudulent bait-and-switch.

In the original April 2011 broadcast, CNN reporter Tuchman held up a Photostat and said, "Here is a copy of a long-form birth certificate belonging to another man. As you can see, it has a little more information on it than the short-form. It has the name of the hospital where he was born, the doctor's signature[,]" and so forth. For comparative purposes, Tuchman was showing what an actual long-form birth certificate looks like.

Screenshot from April 2011 CNN broadcast

In the May 2012 rebroadcast, they used the same shot of Tuchman holding the Photostat, but he now calls it a copy of the short-form birth certificate that Obama released in 2008.

Screenshot from May 2012 CNN broadcast

In the April broadcast, CNN displayed the COLB scan with Factcheck's photos on either side of it. In the May rebroadcast, the scene was the same, but they omitted the "From Factcheck.org" reference that appeared at the top-right corner of the original broadcast:

Screenshot from April 2011 CNN broadcast

Screenshot from May 2012 CNN broadcast

Also, in the original April 2011 broadcast and May 2012 rebroadcast, Gary Tuchman told the audience that Obama's birth announcement had appeared in Honolulu's Star-Bulletin on August 14, 1961. However, they zoomed in on the birth announcement that was in the Honolulu Advertiser, since "highway" is abbreviated as "Hwy." in the announcement. In the Star-Bulletin, the highway name and the word "highway" are spelled out.

Honolulu Advertiser, August 13, 1961

Honolulu Star-Bulletin Aug. 14, 1961

The White House wanted to prove that Obama's citizenship was "a settled issue." They wanted to prove that Obama's birth in Hawaii was "a settled issue." Finally, and most importantly, they wanted to prove that Obama's presidential eligibly was "a settled issue."

The only issue that Barack Obama and his White House staff had settled was that he used a fake birth certificate image to convince voters that he was born Hawaii, that he is an American citizen, and that he is eligible to be president.

But Obama cannot be president. He is an imposter and usurper who refuses to provide any concrete evidence of his born identity, his birthplace, his citizenship, his parents' names and citizenship, or his own eligibility. If these were made public, they would prove that Obama is usurping the office he now holds.

When President Obama released his long-form Certificate of Live Birth on Apr. 27, 2011, (Picture 1), everyone in the press and the public had forgotten about the other birth certificate he released in 2008: the short-form Certification of Live Birth that his campaign staff posted on its website (Picture 2).

Long-Form Certificate of Live Birth

Short-Form Certification of Live Birth

. Everyone, that is, except Obama, his White House staff and legal counsel, and CNN.

At a press conference held the day before, 4/26/2011, a CNN reporter confronted Jay Carney with the following:

Jay, my colleague, Gary Tuchman, just went to Hawaii and established again that there's evidence suggesting that the President was born in the United States. However, Trump and others keep saying that that's not the actual birth certificate, and as you know, Hawaii Department of Health says that you can request a birth certificate you put in a Freedom of Information request, and within a few weeks, you'll get a copy out of the vault. Why doesn't the President do that?

On April 25, CNN had shown Part 1 of a two-part, two-day investigation into Obama's birth certificate. (The network had shown Part 2 on April 26.) The investigation focused exclusively on the short-form while briefly noting that the original vault birth certificate was still available to Hawaiians, but a person had to file a Freedom of Information Act and wait three to four weeks before receiving it. CNN insisted that the short-form was more legal than the long-form because the long-form "is no longer certified for use."

As for Carney, he angrily responded to CNN that "[t]his is a settled issue. The birth certificate that the campaign put up online has been available for everyone to see around the globe." Carney knew that two copies of Obama's long-form birth certificate had arrived two days earlier, but he kept silent on this fact until the following day, when a special press briefing, known as a "Press Gaggle," was held just prior to Obama's official press conference. No recording devices or photography was permitted. Only paper-and-pencil notes. (Banning physical recordings? What ever happened to transparency?)

The briefing was actually led by Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer, with Carney and White House Counsel Robert Bauer there for support. After copies of the long-form and short-form birth certificates were handed out, Pfeiffer began to double down on the importance of the short-form according to Pfeiffer, "the original birth certificate that the President requested and we posted online in 2008" had settled the issue of his birth place and presidential eligibility.

Pfeiffer then provided the press with a brief history of the short-form birth certificate:

In 2008, in response to media inquiries, the President's campaign requested his birth certificate from the state of Hawaii. We received that document we posted it on the website. . To be clear, the document we presented on the President's website in 2008 is his birth certificate.

When Robert Bauer got up to speak, one of the reporters asked him, "Bob, can you explain why President Obama let this drag on for four years? Was it Donald Trump who prompted you to issue this?" One month earlier, Trump was a guest on the TV show The View and had asked, "Why does Obama refuse to show his long-form birth certificate?"

Bauer let Pfeiffer, now noticeably more frustrated, answer the question:

I don't think this dragged on for four years because this was a resolved -- for those of you who remember the campaign, this issue was resolved in 2008. And it has not been an issue, none of you have asked about it, called about it, reported on it until the last few weeks.

It was hardly a settled issue, though, since the short-form is what prompted calls for the release of the hospital-issued long-form birth certificate. Since June 2008, there have been more than 80 lawsuits filed to get it released and $2 million spent by Obama to keep it hidden.

Obviously, the White House wanted to make everyone think that the long-form birth certificate was "an unnecessary distraction," since his birth in Hawaii was a "settled issue" in 2008. When Obama finally arrived at the podium to discuss the release of his long-form birth certificate, he would never mention it by name. In his opening remarks, he said, "As many of you have been briefed, we provided additional information today about the site of my birth." He did mention, however, that "[w]e've posted the Certification that is given by the state of Hawaii on the Internet for everybody to see. People have provided affidavits that they, in fact, have seen this birth certificate."

This was the first time that Obama had ever personally stated, on national TV, that he had posted his birth certificate on the internet "for everybody to see" -- for everybody, that is, except Obama, who never said that he saw it. Anyone watching CNN the night before also had a chance to see it.

Here is a video capture from CNN's "Birther investigation" broadcast on April 26, 2011:

It shows two digital photos of the Certification taken by Factcheck.org in August 2008. According to the White House, this is the same Certification that Obama requested and received in June 2008, of which he had a scan copy posted on his website. The photo on the left is the back-side of the Certification, which the campaign refused to scan -- and we can see why.

It has a date-stamp of "June 6, 2007," the date that the form was issued. The form itself is also a 2007 Certification of Live Birth (COLB) because, in 2008, the design of the form was significantly changed.


OBAMA'S "2007" CERTIFICATION
(arrow points to date-stamp printed on other side)

A GENUINE 2007 CERTIFICATION
(arrow points to date-stamp printed on other side)

A GENUINE 2007 CERTIFICATION
(Reverse side with official stamps)

A GENUINE 2008 CERTIFICATION
(arrow points to date-stamp printed on other side)

A GENUINE 2008 CERTIFICATION
(Reverse side with official stamps)

SECTION OF GENUINE 2008 CERTIFICATION ON TOP OF OBAMA'S "2007" CERTIFICATION

The scans listed herein are genuine 2007 and 2008 COLBs with their 2007 or 2008 date-stamps. The composite image above is a section of a genuine 2008 COLB overlaid on Obama's Certification to highlight how different the borders and the text placements are.

These images prove that what Obama posted on the internet was an image of a 2007 COLB or short-form birth certificate, date-stamped June 6, 2007, and not a genuine scan copy of a genuine 2008 short-form. Had Obama ordered and received a short-form COLB in 2008, it would look like the 2008 COLB with the open border and realigned text as in the overlay above and have a date-stamp of June 6, 2008, not June 6, 2007.

From June 2008 until April 2011, the Hawaii Health Department refused to confirm that they had issued a short-form birth certificate to Obama or anyone acting on his behalf. They refused to authenticate the scan image posted on Obama's web site and the photos posted on Factcheck.org. Dr. Jerry Corsi, of World Net Daily, was the first to report that Hawaii refused to authenticate the online COLB. The reasons should be obvious by now: they never produced a genuine 2008 Certification of Live Birth for Obama, or even a genuine 2007 Certification of Live Birth hence, there was nothing to authenticate.

The only way Obama or anyone could get a 2007 COLB, date-stamped June 6, 2007, in June 2008 is to have one forged, and that is exactly what they did. Normally, if you wanted to authenticate a birth document, you would have a forensic document expert compare the forged facsimile with the real document. However, if no real document exists, then there is nothing for a forensic document examiner to examine.

If Obama's short-form birth certificate does not exist, then any images of it cannot be authentic, either. However, how does one prove it? The first step is to answer the question, "Was the online image made naturally by an image scanner using a genuine paper COLB, or was it fabricated by human intervention and graphics software?"

I spent six months in 2009 reverse-engineering the online image to determine exactly how it was made. I attempted to make it naturally using three different scanners and three genuine 2007 COLBs. After several hundred hours of making trial images, I concluded that no scanner on the planet could ever have made the Obama COLB image, and the image did not look like any genuine 2007 COLB ever made. This was a one-of-a-kind image that Factcheck photographed as a printout and not as a real paper birth certificate.

After deconstructing Obama's online COLB image, I forensically reconstructed an exact duplicate of it using Adobe Photoshop. The reason why I created a clone of Obama's online COLB was to achieve two objectives.

First, it demonstrated that the online image was a fabrication made by someone using pieces of other people's COLBs and then assembled to look like an original 2007 COLB. I created a video on how I reconstructed it and posted it on my YouTube channel.

Secondly, I wanted to demonstrate that a person looking at my COLB clone could not tell it apart from Obama's COLB. I managed to get my image listed by Snopes.com as being Obama's actual COLB, and it worked. Millions of people have viewed it, posted links to it, and commented that my forgery was sufficient proof that Obama was born in Hawaii.

I started writing about Obama's COLB from the first day the Obama campaign posted it. I included a high-resolution copy of the image on my blog, and Snopes decided to post a link to it instead of linking to the original image posted on the Obama campaign website.

At the Press Gaggle, the White House distributed to reporters copies of both the long-form birth certificate and the short-form birth certificate. Although both certificates were printed on the same kind of green-patterned security paper, the copies given to the media had no backgrounds. The long-form birth certificate was a high-resolution bluish copy, while the short-form was a low-resolution black-and-white copy taken from a printout of the Obama COLB as shown on the Snopes website. The Snopes printout is on the White House website, and the COLB image is the one I made, and not one by the campaign. More proof that the campaign never had a genuine paper short-form to scan and post.

Xerox copy of a printout made from a web page found on Snopes.com

The White House also used a black-and-white printout from the Snopes web page to hide the fact that they had posted a 2007 COLB, and not a 2008 COLB as repeatedly reported.

At the end of his press conference, Obama told his audience, "I don't have time for sideshows and distractions. I have better things to do." With that, he left the Brady Room, boarded Air Force One with Michelle, and flew to Chicago so that they could go on Oprah and discuss the "outing of the birth certificate," as Oprah had described it.

When her show began, Oprah said that "[b]y the time this show airs, everyone will have seen your hospital-issued birth certificate which people started asking about two and a half years ago." It was at that moment that Michelle blurted out, "It's been four years!," confirming the fact that many people had been asking to see his original birth certificate since 2007.

CNN was not done promulgating the importance of the short-form birth certificate. On May 30, 2012, they rebroadcast Part 2 of their April 2011 "Birther report" -- this time with a new title, "Busting the Birther Conspiracy Theory," and a new, fraudulent bait-and-switch.

In the original April 2011 broadcast, CNN reporter Tuchman held up a Photostat and said, "Here is a copy of a long-form birth certificate belonging to another man. As you can see, it has a little more information on it than the short-form. It has the name of the hospital where he was born, the doctor's signature[,]" and so forth. For comparative purposes, Tuchman was showing what an actual long-form birth certificate looks like.

Screenshot from April 2011 CNN broadcast

In the May 2012 rebroadcast, they used the same shot of Tuchman holding the Photostat, but he now calls it a copy of the short-form birth certificate that Obama released in 2008.

Screenshot from May 2012 CNN broadcast

In the April broadcast, CNN displayed the COLB scan with Factcheck's photos on either side of it. In the May rebroadcast, the scene was the same, but they omitted the "From Factcheck.org" reference that appeared at the top-right corner of the original broadcast:

Screenshot from April 2011 CNN broadcast

Screenshot from May 2012 CNN broadcast

Also, in the original April 2011 broadcast and May 2012 rebroadcast, Gary Tuchman told the audience that Obama's birth announcement had appeared in Honolulu's Star-Bulletin on August 14, 1961. However, they zoomed in on the birth announcement that was in the Honolulu Advertiser, since "highway" is abbreviated as "Hwy." in the announcement. In the Star-Bulletin, the highway name and the word "highway" are spelled out.

Honolulu Advertiser, August 13, 1961

Honolulu Star-Bulletin Aug. 14, 1961

The White House wanted to prove that Obama's citizenship was "a settled issue." They wanted to prove that Obama's birth in Hawaii was "a settled issue." Finally, and most importantly, they wanted to prove that Obama's presidential eligibly was "a settled issue."

The only issue that Barack Obama and his White House staff had settled was that he used a fake birth certificate image to convince voters that he was born Hawaii, that he is an American citizen, and that he is eligible to be president.

But Obama cannot be president. He is an imposter and usurper who refuses to provide any concrete evidence of his born identity, his birthplace, his citizenship, his parents' names and citizenship, or his own eligibility. If these were made public, they would prove that Obama is usurping the office he now holds.


Can I submit a late registered birth certificate in my immigration case?

A “late registered” birth certificate is generally a certificate of birth created at a significantly later date than the birth of the child. In some countries, registering a child’s birth may not have been standard practice many years ago.

Likewise, it may be very difficult for some rural families to travel to the nearest government office for the purpose of recording the birth. If the birth is registered many years later, it is considered a delayed or late registered birth certificate.

USCIS Acceptance of Late Registered Birth Certificates

If you only have a birth certificate that was registered many years after the birth, USCIS will generally accept the document. However, you may have to provide additional evidence that the birth happened as recorded. In other words, you may need other proof that the persons listed as parents are in fact the parents of the child. Additionally, the date of the birth may need corroborated.

Before using the late registered birth certificate with a USCIS application or petition, you’ll need to do some homework to determine if USCIS will be satisfied. For example, if birth certificates generally were not available to people born in the same region and time as you, USCIS is more likely to accept a late registered birth certificate. On the other hand, if birth certificates were typically available, USCIS will want more evidence. USCIS will refer to the U.S. Department of State’s visa reciprocity tables. You can do the same thing.

Generally, submitting secondary evidence with your late registered birth certificate is recommended. USCIS typically wants more evidence. You can keep your application or petition on a faster track by submitting secondary evidence at the initial filing. You may wait for USCIS to make a determination and issue a Request for Evidence (RFE). However, this will always add a significant delay to your case.

Secondary Evidence

If you do not have a document that meets the birth certificate requirements, you should anticipate the additional requirement to submit alternative evidence of birth. Submit this secondary evidence with the late registered birth certificate.

Likewise, USCIS may have responded with a RFE if you submitted a late registered birth certificate with an application. It is critical that you respond to the RFE in the timeframe specified. You’ll need to produce secondary evidence of the birth.

Your evidence should corroborate the information on the birth certificate (if you have one). Submit as much evidence as possible. There are a variety of documents you may use as evidence of the birth. It may include, but is not limited to:

Religious Documents

Examples include birth or baptismal certificates, or other notable religious documents. Religious documents must:

  • Show the name of the parent(s)
  • Bear an authorizing signature
  • Display the official stamp or seal of a religious body such as a church, mosque, temple or synagogue and
  • Show the date and place of the commemorative occasion.
Early School Records

You may use school records, preferably from the first school attended, showing:

  • The date of admission
  • The child’s name and place of birth and
  • Name(s) of the child’s parent(s).
Medical Records

If you have a hospital birth record or hospital admittance records that name the parent(s) and child, these can be used as evidence.

Census Records

State or federal census records showing the subject’s name and place of birth, and date of birth or age of each person listed.

Affidavits

Affidavits may be submitted in the absence of the secondary evidence listed above or in addition to the secondary evidence. An affidavits is essentially a sworn statements from an individual who has direct knowledge of the birth. Typically, they will be family members who were present near the time of the birth or were living at the time of the birth and can offer personal knowledge.


What is a Certified Copy of a Birth Certificate? What Data is Included?

A certified copy of a birth certificate is an official record of the birth of a child. This type of certified birth certificate is issued by your state’s records office. Keep in mind that both authorized and informational copies are considered "certified copies”.

This is a legal document that can be used as a form of identification. A certified birth certificate can be used to get a driver’s license, passport, social security card, and also to get married.

The information that is included on an authorized birth certificate must be the following:

  • The child’s full name, spelled out including the first, middle, and last names
  • The child’s place of birth: city, country, and state
  • The date of birth, which can also include the time
  • The child’s sex/gender
  • Details about the birth: single birth, twins, triplets, etc
  • The father’s full name
  • The birth location of the father
  • The birth date of the father
  • The mother’s full name, along with her maiden (unmarried) name
  • The birth location of the mother
  • The birth date of the mother
  • The city, country, and state of residence of the birth parents

However, it should be noted that the information on a birth certificate might vary depending on the state. Each state has its own requirements. For example, in the case of California birth certificates authorized copies may only be obtained by the individual mentioned on the certified, parents of the individual and "certain other individuals or entities specified in law", according to the California Department of Public Health. Other requestors can only obtain informational copies, which are equally considered “certified copies.”

And although a certified birth certificate may not always contain all of the above, it must at least have the following details:

  • The baby’s full name
  • The date of birth
  • The sex/gender of the baby
  • The place of birth
  • The names of both parents
  • The official City, County or State Seal

A certified birth certificate must always have a raised seal, multicolored and embossed, of the city, county or state. It must also have the signature of the registrar and the date of issue.

New parents should be aware that the registration for an official birth certificate must be submitted within one year of the birth. However, the issuance date of the birth certificate can be any date. Meaning, you can request a certified birth certificate to use to register for school, get married, get a driver’s license, etc.


The term ‘Negro’? Color it obsolete

America’s Negro problem just won’t quit. The Census Bureau has been using the term “Negro” as a racial identifier on its decennial forms since 1950, later joined -- though not supplanted -- by “black” and “African Am.” But when the website thegrio.com recently pointed out that “Negro” was going to appear once more on the 2010 census, many black folks reacted with shock and pointed distaste. Bloggers and pundits condemned the term as a relic of the bad old days of segregation and Jim Crow that has no business in official records anymore.

The Census Bureau says it simply wants to ensure that everybody of color is counted, and that its meticulously vetted decision is based on the fact that more than 50,000 older blacks wrote in “Negro” on the last census, in 2000. But that purely scientific stance hasn’t quelled the protests.

I get why. Though it was the accepted term until the late ‘60s, for those born after that, “Negro” is something they never answered to, a word that sounds only slightly less incendiary than “nigger.” Even older blacks tend to use it ironically or sarcastically when they use it at all, as in: “Those Negroes just can’t get it together.” Its taint goes back to slavery, when Southerners paternalistically referred to even free blacks as “our Negroes.” Contrast this unpleasantness with Barack Obama, who has established a 21st century standard of racial consideration that’s figuring into just about every discussion of color these days. To blacks of all ages, “Negro” and President Obama sharing the same era just feels wrong -- maybe he isn’t post-racial, but isn’t he at least post-Negro?

This controversy may be new, but the angst about what to call ourselves is ancient. Over the last 40 years, we have self-identified as “black,” “Afro-American” and “African American” in an attempt get out from under the subjugation represented by “Negro” and, before that, “colored.” But the history of all this is hardly a straight line. “Black” is associated with ‘60s pride and power, but it was once considered derogatory and far less appropriate than “Negro,” which evolved after emancipation into a relatively respectable term. “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” the stirring James Weldon Johnson song that will be performed regularly during African American History Month -- or is it Black History Month? -- started out as the “Negro National Anthem.”

“Afro-American” has a similar reputation of ‘60s radicalism, but its use dates to the turn of the 20th century, a time when blacks were fighting for social inclusion against frightful odds the magazine Advance described as part of its mission “obtaining for the Afro-American an equal chance.” The term “African American,” popularized in the ‘80s by Jesse Jackson, is an amalgam of all the terms before it that sought to bring a measure of peace to the conflicted notion of being a black American, a notion that demanded acknowledgment of citizenship and common history as well as a racial experience and identity that’s separate and unique. But even the bold word “African” was not new, having had its turn in colonial times, when the First African Methodist Episcopal Church was founded. It had also been used by whites to describe slaves and blacks in general, and by the 19th century had fallen out of favor.

Like the president, I am part of that black generation whose lifetime spans pretty much all of the above. I was born a Negro in 1962 -- it’s on my birth certificate -- and in short order became black, Afro-American and African American. Although I appreciate the impulse for self-definition and self-determination that attended each of these name changes, I can’t say that any of them has impacted my life in any measurable way. I will say that I’ve never liked “African American” -- too cumbersome and self-conscious. Nor does it cover the African diaspora in America as neatly as the word “black,” which most people of color I know use most commonly to describe themselves.

“African American” also gave too many blacks the sense that simply changing a name to something more dignified or ethnically accurate counts as racial progress. What it has mostly done is let us say that 30% of African Americans live in poverty, and that more than half of African American men of working age are unemployed in some cities. Do we value African Americans now more than we valued blacks or Negroes in the past? I submit that we don’t. The real problem is not names at all, but the imperiled status of black people that persists from one age to the next, from one “acceptable” term to another.

That’s acknowledged in the fact that, controversy notwithstanding, nobody today quibbles with the names of advocacy groups such as the National Council of Negro Women. In his civil rights rhetoric, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. repeatedly infused “the Negro” with urgency and even poetry, turning the isolation and alienation of the phrase into a powerful part of his argument for racial inclusion. Black leaders before him did the same thing with the often pejorative “the colored man.” But that was then, and this is now: “Negro” is officially the last of the oppressor appellations, and for many people it’s past time to retire it for good.

And so here we are in 2010. May I suggest that we count black folks any way that makes sense and turn our national attention to the big racial issues that really matter? Though it’s interesting to note that when the 2000 census allowed people to check more than one racial category -- in a nod to mixed-race folks who objected to being identified as black only -- it fueled concerns among blacks/African Americans/Negroes that our numbers would diminish as our lines of demarcation blurred. Whatever you think about “Negro,” whom it refers to is abundantly clear.


Additional Registration Sources


Besides the standard birth, marriage and death registration documents, there are additional sources also recording similar information. These relate to:

1. Adoption Records


Before 1927, there was no legal system of adoption and as such, any agreements prior to that date were usually made within the extended family. A certificate for an adoptive child will show the same information as that contained on a normal birth certificate except the parents&rsquo names will be those of the adoptive parents, not the natural parents. When looking through the indexes, the entry will be recorded for the year of adoption, which will not necessarily be the year of birth. The certificate will also show details of the date and court in which the adoption order was made. After 1949, the country of birth will also be shown where the child was born abroad. Although the certificate will contain the name of the child being adopted, this may not be the same as the name with which the child was first registered. In many cases, it is possible to find the child in the ordinary birth indexes but, for many, it will be necessary to comply with the requirements of the various Adoption Acts to allow the child to obtain details of their original parentage.

2. Stillbirths


Stillbirths have been registered in this country since 1 July 1927. The records are not available to the general public in the form of indexes and application to the Registrar General is needed for a certificate to be issued.

3. At Sea & In the Air


Records exist of births and deaths at sea and in the air where such an event took place on a British registered craft. Marine events have been registered since 1 July 1837, but air events only since 1947. Births and deaths on British registered hover-crafts, oil rigs and other offshore installations are also recorded. They relate to events anywhere in the world. Indexes are available and certificates can be obtained.

4. Service Records


These relate to births & baptisms and deaths of members of the armed forces or their families or to people working for or attached to the forces. They relate to events both in this country and abroad. The Army registers commence in 1761 (1796 for marriages) though are most comprehensive after 1881. There are separate registers for deaths of servicemen in the Boer, First and Second World Wars.

5. Consular & High Commission Returns


Where a birth, marriage or death took place of a British Subject in a foreign country, it may have been recorded by the British Consul and certificates of such events are available. Most returns commenced in July 1849. If similar events took place in Commonwealth countries then they are recorded in the British High Commission returns. Not all British High Commissions recorded marriages. The marriage may be recorded in any registration system operated by the country concerned.


Hilary Mantel: why I became a historical novelist

‘Is this story true?’ readers invevitably ask. In the first of her BBC Reith Lectures, the double Man Booker prize-winning author explores the complicated relationship between history, fact and fiction

Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy) prepares to meet her death in the TV adaptation of Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. Photograph: Giles Keyte/BBC

Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy) prepares to meet her death in the TV adaptation of Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. Photograph: Giles Keyte/BBC

Last modified on Thu 22 Feb 2018 14.18 GMT

S aint Augustine says, the dead are invisible, they are not absent. You needn’t believe in ghosts to see that’s true. We carry the genes and the culture of our ancestors, and what we think about them shapes what we think of ourselves, and how we make sense of our time and place. Are these good times, bad times, interesting times? We rely on history to tell us. History, and science too, help us put our small lives in context. But if we want to meet the dead looking alive, we turn to art.

There is a poem by WH Auden, called “As I Walked Out One Evening”:

The glacier knocks in the cupboard,
The desert sighs in the bed,
And the crack in the teacup opens
A lane to the land of the dead

The purpose of this lecture is to ask if this lane is a two-way street. In imagination, we chase the dead, shouting, “Come back!” We may suspect that the voices we hear are an echo of our own, and the movement we see is our own shadow. But we sense the dead have a vital force still – they have something to tell us, something we need to understand. Using fiction and drama, we try to gain that understanding. I don’t claim we can hear the past or see it. But I say we can listen and look. There are techniques we can use.

Hilary Mantel: ‘In imagination, we chase the dead, shouting, “Come back!”’ Illustration: Nick Higgins

My concern as a writer is with memory, personal and collective: with the restless dead asserting their claims. My own family history is meagre. An audience member once said to me, “I come from a long line of nobodies.” I agreed: me too. I have no names beyond my maternal great-grandmother – but let me introduce her, as an example, because she reached through time from the end of the 19th century to form my sense of who I am, at this point in the 21st: even nobodies can do this.

She was the daughter of a Patrick, the wife of a Patrick, the mother of a Patrick her name was Catherine O’Shea, and she spent her early life in Portlaw, a mill village near Waterford in the south of Ireland. Portlaw was an artificial place, purpose-built by a Quaker family called Malcolmson, whose business was shipping and corn, cotton and flax. The mill opened in 1826. At one time Portlaw was so busy that it imported labour from London.

The Malcolmsons were moral capitalists and keen on social control. The village was laid out on a plan ideal for surveillance, built so that one policeman stationed in the square could look down all five streets. The Malcolmsons founded a Thrift Society and a Temperance Society and paid their workers partly in cardboard tokens, exchangeable in the company shop. When a regional newspaper suggested this was a form of slavery, the Malcolmsons sued them, and won.

As the 19th century ended, textiles declined and the Malcolmsons lost their money. The mill closed in 1904 – by which time my family, like many others, had begun a shuffling stage-by-stage emigration.

Two of Catherine’s brothers went to America, and in time-honoured fashion were never heard from again. Catherine was a young married woman when she came to England – to another mill village, Hadfield, on the edge of the Peak District. Like Portlaw, it was green and wet and shadowed by hills. As far as I know, she never left it. She must have wondered, does the whole world look like this?

Her first home was in a street called Waterside – for many years the scene of ritual gang fights on Friday nights between the locals and the incomers. I know hardly anything about Catherine’s life. I suppose that when a woman has 10 children, she ceases to have a biography. One photograph of her survives. She is standing on the doorstep of a stone-built terraced house. Her skirt covers her waist to ankle, her torn shawl covers the rest. I can’t read her face, or relate it to mine.

But I imagine I know where the picture was taken. There was a row of houses which fronted Waterside, their backs within the mill enclosure. In time the houses were knocked down, but the facades had to stand, because they were part of the mill wall. The windows and doorways were infilled by blocks of stone. By the time I was alive to see it, this new stone was the same colour as the mill: black. But you could see where the doors and windows had been. When I was a child these houses struck me as sinister: an image of deception and loss.

The door of a house should lead to a home. But behind this door was the public space of the mill yard. By studying history – let’s say, the emigrant experience, or the textile trade – I could locate Catherine in the public sphere. But I have no access to her thoughts. My great-grandmother couldn’t read or write. One saying of hers survives. “The day is for the living, and the night is for the dead.” I assume it was what she said to keep the 10 children in order after lights-out. After her early years, as I understand it, Catherine no longer worked in the mill. But I am told she had a certain role in her community: she was the woman who laid out the dead.

Why do we do this – or employ someone to do it? Why do we wash their faces and dress them in familiar clothes? We do it for the sake of the living. Even if we have no religious belief, we still believe what has been human should be treated as human still witness the indignation if a corpse is desecrated, and the agony of those who have no bodies to bury. It is almost the definition of being human: we are the animals who mourn. One of the horrors of genocide is the mass grave, the aggregation of the loving, living person into common, compound matter, stripped of a name.

Commemoration is an active process, and often a contentious one. When we memorialise the dead, we are sometimes desperate for the truth, and sometimes for a comforting illusion. We remember individually, out of grief and need. We remember as a society, with a political agenda – we reach into the past for foundation myths of our tribe, our nation, and found them on glory, or found them on grievance, but we seldom found them on cold facts.

Nations are built on wishful versions of their origins: stories in which our forefathers were giants, of one kind or another. This is how we live in the world: romancing. Once the romance was about aristocratic connections and secret status, the fantasy of being part of an elite. Now the romance is about deprivation, dislocation, about the distance covered between there and here: between, let’s say, where my great-grandmother was and where I am today. The facts have less traction, less influence on what we are and what we do, than the self-built fictions.

As soon as we die, we enter into fiction. Just ask two different family members to tell you about someone recently gone, and you will see what I mean. Once we can no longer speak for ourselves, we are interpreted. When we remember – as psychologists so often tell us – we don’t reproduce the past, we create it. Surely, you may say – some truths are non-negotiable, the facts of history guide us. And the records do indeed throw up some facts and figures that admit no dispute. But the historian Patrick Collinson wrote: “It is possible for competent historians to come to radically different conclusions on the basis of the same evidence. Because, of course, 99% of the evidence, above all, unrecorded speech, is not available to us.”

Evidence is always partial. Facts are not truth, though they are part of it – information is not knowledge. And history is not the past – it is the method we have evolved of organising our ignorance of the past. It’s the record of what’s left on the record. It’s the plan of the positions taken, when we to stop the dance to note them down. It’s what’s left in the sieve when the centuries have run through it – a few stones, scraps of writing, scraps of cloth. It is no more “the past” than a birth certificate is a birth, or a script is a performance, or a map is a journey. It is the multiplication of the evidence of fallible and biased witnesses, combined with incomplete accounts of actions not fully understood by the people who performed them. It’s no more than the best we can do, and often it falls short of that.

Historians are sometimes scrupulous and self-aware, sometimes careless or biased. Yet in either case, and hardly knowing which is which, we cede them moral authority. They do not consciously fictionalise, and we believe they are trying to tell the truth. But historical novelists face – as they should – questions about whether their work is legitimate. No other sort of writer has to explain their trade so often. The reader asks, is this story true?

That sounds like a simple question, but we have to unwrap it. Often the reader is asking, can I check this out in a history book? Does it agree with other accounts? Would my old history teacher recognise it?

It may be that a novelist’s driving idea is to take apart the received version. But readers are touchingly loyal to the first history they learn – and if you challenge it, it’s as if you are taking away their childhoods. For a person who seeks safety and authority, history is the wrong place to look. Any worthwhile history is in a constant state of self-questioning, just as any worthwhile fiction is. If the reader asks the writer, “Have you evidence to back your story?” the answer should be yes: but you hope the reader will be wise to the many kinds of evidence there are, and how they can be used.

It’s not possible to lay down a rule or a standard of good practice, because there are so many types of historical fiction. Some have the feel of documentary, others are close to fantasy. Not every author concerns herself with real people and real events. In my current cycle of Tudor novels, I track the historical record so I can report the outer world faithfully – though I also tell my reader the rumours, and suggest that sometimes the news is falsified.

But my chief concern is with the interior drama of my characters’ lives. From history, I know what they do, but I can’t with any certainty know what they think or feel. In any novel, once it’s finished, you can’t separate fact from fiction – it’s like trying to return mayonnaise to oil and egg yolk. If you want to know how it was put together line by line, your only hope, I’m afraid, is to ask the author.

For this reason, some readers are deeply suspicious of historical fiction. They say that by its nature it’s misleading. But I argue that a reader knows the nature of the contract. When you choose a novel to tell you about the past, you are putting in brackets the historical accounts – which may or may not agree with each other – and actively requesting a subjective interpretation. You are not buying a replica, or even a faithful photographic reproduction – you are buying a painting with the brush strokes left in. To the historian, the reader says, “Take this document, object, person – tell me what it means.” To the novelist he says, “Now tell me what else it means.”

The novelist knows her place. She works away at the point where what is enacted meets what is dreamed, where politics meets psychology, where private and public meet. I stand with my great-grandmother, on the doorstep. I break through the false wall. On the other side I connect my personal story with the collective story. I move through the domestic space and emerge into the buzzing economic space of the mill yard – the market place, the gossip shop, the street and the parliament house.

Hilary Mantel: ‘I began writing fiction when I discovered I wanted to be a historian.’ Photograph: Richard Ansett/BBC

I began writing fiction in the 1970s, at the point, paradoxically, where I discovered I wanted to be a historian. I thought that because of my foolishness at the age of 16, not knowing what to put on my university applications, I had missed my chance, and so if I wanted to work with the past, I would have to become a novelist – which of course, any fool can do.

For the first year or two, I was subject to a cultural cringe. I felt I was morally inferior to historians and artistically inferior to real novelists, who could do plots – whereas I had only to find out what happened.

In those days historical fiction wasn’t respectable or respected. It meant historical romance. If you read a brilliant novel like Robert Graves’s I, Claudius, you didn’t taint it with the genre label, you just thought of it as literature. So I was shy about naming what I was doing. All the same I began. I wanted to find a novel I liked, about the French revolution. I couldn’t, so I started making one.

I wasn’t after quick results. I was prepared to look at all the material I could find, even though I knew it would take years, but what I wasn’t prepared for were the gaps, the erasures, the silences where there should have been evidence.

These erasures and silences made me into a novelist, but at first I found them simply disconcerting. I didn’t like making things up, which put me at a disadvantage. In the end I scrambled through to an interim position that satisfied me. I would make up a man’s inner torments, but not, for instance, the colour of his drawing room wallpaper.

Because his thoughts can only be conjectured. Even if he was a diarist or a confessional writer, he might be self-censoring. But the wallpaper – someone, somewhere, might know the pattern and colour, and if I kept on pursuing it I might find out. Then – when my character comes home weary from a 24-hour debate in the National Convention and hurls his dispatch case into a corner, I would be able to look around at the room, through his eyes. When my book eventually came out, after many years, one snide critic – who was putting me in my place, as a woman writing about men doing serious politics – complained there was a lot in it about wallpaper. Believe me, I thought, hand on heart, that there was not nearly enough.

In time I understood one thing – that you don’t become a novelist to become a spinner of entertaining lies: you become a novelist so you can tell the truth. I start to practise my trade at the point where the satisfactions of the official story break down. Some stories bear retelling. They compel retelling. Take the last days of the life of Anne Boleyn. You can tell that story and tell it. Put it through hundreds of iterations. But still, there seems to be a piece of the puzzle missing. You say, I am sure I can do better next time. You start again. You look at the result – and realise, once again, that while you were tethering part of the truth, another part has fled into the wild.

However, it took time for me to get to the Tudors. For most of my career I wrote about odd and marginal people. They were psychic. Or religious. Or institutionalised. Or social workers. Or French. My readers were a small and select band, until I decided to march on to the middle ground of English history and plant a flag.

To researchers, the Tudor era is still a focus of hot dispute, but to the public it’s light entertainment. And there were shelves full of novels about Henry VIII and his wives. But a novelist can’t resist an unexplored angle. Change the viewpoint, and the story is new. Among authors of literary fiction, no one was fighting me for this territory. Everyone was busy cultivating their outsider status.

‘Change the viewpoint, and the story is new’: Wolf Hall is told from the perspective of Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance in the TV adaptation). Photograph: Ed Miller/BBC

For many years we have been concerned with decentring the grand narrative. We have become romantic about the rootless, the broken, those without a voice – and sceptical about great men, dismissive of heroes. That’s how our inquiry into the human drama has evolved: first the gods go, and then the heroes, and then we are left with our grubby, compromised selves.

As you gain knowledge and technique as a writer – as you gain a necessary self-consciousness about your trade – you lose some of the intensity of your childhood relationship with the past. When I was a child the past felt close and it felt personal. Beneath every history, there is another history – there is, at least, the life of the historian. That’s why I invited my great-grandmother into this piece – because I know my life inflects my work. You can regard all novels as psychological compensation for lives unlived. Historical fiction comes out of greed for experience. Violent curiosity drives us on, takes us far from our time, far from our shore, and often beyond our compass.

The pursuit of the past makes you aware, whether you are novelist or historian, of the dangers of your own fallibility and inbuilt bias. The writer of history is a walking anachronism, a displaced person, using today’s techniques to try to know things about yesterday that yesterday didn’t know itself. He must try to work authentically, hearing the words of the past, but communicating in a language the present understands. The historian, the biographer, the writer of fiction work within different constraints, but in a way that is complementary, not opposite. The novelist’s trade is never just about making things up. The historian’s trade is never simply about stockpiling facts. Even the driest, most data-driven research involves an element of interpretation. Deep research in the archives can be reported in tabular form and lists, by historians talking to each other. But to talk to their public, they use the same devices as all storytellers – selection, elision, artful arrangement. The 19th-century historian Lord Macaulay said, “History has to be burned into the imagination before it can be received by the reason.” So how do we teach history? Is it a set of stories, or a set of skills? Both, I think we need to pass on the stories, but also impart the skills to hack the stories apart and make new ones.

To retrieve history we need rigour, integrity, unsparing devotion and an impulse to scepticism. To retrieve the past, we require all those virtues, and something more. If we want added value – to imagine not just how the past was, but what it felt like, from the inside – we pick up a novel. The historian and the biographer follow a trail of evidence, usually a paper trail. The novelist does that too, and then performs another act, puts the past back into process, into action, frees the people from the archive and lets them run about, ignorant of their fates, with all their mistakes unmade.

We can’t leave theory aside: it is impossible now to write an intelligent historical novel that is not also a historiographical novel, one that considers its own workings. But I have tried to find a way to talk about the past without, day by day, using terms like “historiography”. I became a novelist to test the virtue in words that my great-grandmother would recognise, from that journey she made, Ireland to England, from one damp green place to another: words like thread and loom and warp and weft, words like dockside, and ship, and sea, and stone, and road, and home.

Hilary Mantel’s five Reith Lectures, Resurrection: The Art and Craft, will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 from 13 June.


Researching your Irish roots: Where to start

Investigating your Irish roots often feels daunting when you first start out. It shouldn’t. Irish genealogy really isn’t as difficult as it might appear, nor as difficult as some people might have told you.

There are many, many more sources of information than you have probably been led to believe.

It is true that a lot of priceless records were lost in the 1922 fire at the Public Record Office in Dublin, but an awful lot of other sources were not stored there and have survived.

That doesn’t mean finding your ancestors is as easy as ABC it just means most people can throw at least some light on their Irish roots when they start looking.

Start with yourself and work backwards

Write down as much information as you already have about your parents, your grandparents and your grandparents' parents. Verify your sources as you go. You'll immediately see the gaps in your knowledge. Use these free blank genealogy forms to start recording your Irish roots.

Talk to your relatives

First of all, ask your oldest relatives for their memories of the family. Then move on to younger ones who may have heard stories or might remember some pertinent details about your Irish roots. Start with some clearly focused questions but allow your relatives to reminisce:– you might pick up some gems in the process. Learn more about finding family history stories through your relatives' memories: Interview preparation Interview etiquette Interview questions.

Find your ancestor's place of origin in Ireland

For many family historians this can be the biggest hurdle to connecting with their Irish roots.  If you already know the townland (the smallest Irish land division) where your ancestors used to live, you're one of the lucky ones. If you know only that 'they came from Ireland' or that they came from a specific county, your biggest task will be to pin down this all-important location.

Deal only with facts

Family legends can be a source of guidance but are rarely 100% accurate. The ‘chartered accountant’ may turn out to have been a clerk in an accounts office. The ‘ancestral farm’ may have been a simple hovel with a potato patch outside. Stirring tales of daring-do and selfless kindness have probably been much embellished over the years so don't become too attached to them! While there is often a grain of truth to these stories, they should not dictate the entire course of your research into your Irish roots.

Develop your Irish roots research plan

Think about which lines to follow. You have two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents and so on. You have to draw the line somewhere! Decide which branch of your Irish roots you are going to study. It’s traditional to follow the male line from your father and the female line from your mother (which is always more tricky than the paternal route), but it’'s entirely up to you. Just choose one line for now. You can return to start another line at a later date.

Record your data

You're going to accumulate huge amounts of information from a variety of sources you won't be able to retain it all in your head. Get in the habit of carefully recording every piece of new data as you uncover it. There will be times in the future you'll be so glad you did!   Use these free family history forms to get you started.

Get organised

If you scribble down notes on scraps of paper, you're going to lose valuable data. You really need to approach your family history research in an orderly fashion.

Be prepared

You are likely to find one or two skeletons in the cupboard once you start researching your family history. Accept that the truth may be somewhat less attractive than its telling in family tales, and be honest in your recording.

Don't be too ambitious

For the majority of us with Irish ancestors, searching for our Irish roots leads us to poor, landless labourers. As such, their lives were not well documented and, where records do survive, they are unlikely to date from much before 1810, at best. For many, the first half of the 19th century will be as far back as you can go.

By the time you have completed this first stage of your research, you will have a much deeper sense of your Irish heritage and of the future direction of your family history research. You will also be ready to take the Next Steps towards discovering your Irish roots.

By the time you have completed this first stage of your research, you will have a much deeper sense of your Irish heritage and of the future direction of your family history research. You will also be ready to take the Next Steps towards discovering your Irish roots.


Born in the U.S.A.

In June, the Obama campaign released a digitally scanned image of his birth certificate to quell speculative charges that he might not be a natural-born citizen. But the image prompted more blog-based skepticism about the document’s authenticity. And recently, author Jerome Corsi, whose book attacks Obama, said in a TV interview that the birth certificate the campaign has is “fake.”

We beg to differ. FactCheck.org staffers have now seen, touched, examined and photographed the original birth certificate. We conclude that it meets all of the requirements from the State Department for proving U.S. citizenship. Claims that the document lacks a raised seal or a signature are false. We have posted high-resolution photographs of the document as “supporting documents” to this article. Our conclusion: Obama was born in the U.S.A. just as he has always said.

Update, Nov. 1: The director of Hawaii’s Department of Health confirmed Oct. 31 that Obama was born in Honolulu.

Analysis

Update Nov. 1: The Associated Press quoted Chiyome Fukino as saying that both she and the registrar of vital statistics, Alvin Onaka, have personally verified that the health department holds Obama’s original birth certificate.

Fukino also was quoted by several other news organizations. The Honolulu Advertiser quoted Fukino as saying the agency had been bombarded by requests, and that the registrar of statistics had even been called in at home in the middle of the night.

Honolulu Advertiser, Nov. 1 2008:“This has gotten ridiculous,” state health director Dr. Chiyome Fukino said yesterday. “There are plenty of other, important things to focus on, like the economy, taxes, energy.” . . . Will this be enough to quiet the doubters? “I hope so,” Fukino said. “We need to get some work done.”

Fukino said she has “personally seen and verified that the Hawaii State Department of Health has Sen. Obama’s original birth certificate on record in accordance with state policies and procedures.”

Update, April 27, 2011: The White House released the long-form version of President Barack Obama’s birth certificate, confirming (yet again) that he was born in the United States. The Hawaii Department of Health made an exception in Obama’s case and issued copies of the “Certificate of Live Birth.”

Since we first wrote about Obama’s birth certificate on June 16, speculation on his citizenship has continued apace. Some claim that Obama posted a fake birth certificate to his Web page. That charge leaped from the blogosphere to the mainstream media earlier this week when Jerome Corsi, author of a book attacking Obama, repeated the claim in an Aug. 15 interview with Steve Doocy on Fox News.

Corsi: Well, what would be really helpful is if Senator Obama would release primary documents like his birth certificate. The campaign has a false, fake birth certificate posted on their website. How is anybody supposed to really piece together his life?

Doocy: What do you mean they have a “false birth certificate” on their Web site?

Corsi: The original birth certificate of Obama has never been released, and the campaign refuses to release it.

Doocy: Well, couldn’t it just be a State of Hawaii-produced duplicate?

Corsi: No, it’s a — there’s been good analysis of it on the Internet, and it’s been shown to have watermarks from Photoshop. It’s a fake document that’s on the Web site right now, and the original birth certificate the campaign refuses to produce.

Corsi isn’t the only skeptic claiming that the document is a forgery. Among the most frequent objections we saw on forums, blogs and e-mails are:

  • The birth certificate doesn’t have a raised seal.
  • It isn’t signed.
  • No creases from folding are evident in the scanned version.
  • In the zoomed-in view, there’s a strange halo around the letters.
  • The certificate number is blacked out.
  • The date bleeding through from the back seems to say �,” but the document wasn’t released until 2008.
  • The document is a “certification of birth,” not a “certificate of birth.”

Recently FactCheck representatives got a chance to spend some time with the birth certificate, and we can attest to the fact that it is real and three-dimensional and resides at the Obama headquarters in Chicago. We can assure readers that the certificate does bear a raised seal, and that it’s stamped on the back by Hawaii state registrar Alvin T. Onaka (who uses a signature stamp rather than signing individual birth certificates). We even brought home a few photographs.

The Obama birth certificate, held by FactCheck writer Joe Miller

Alvin T. Onaka’s signature stamp

You can click on the photos to get full-size versions, which haven’t been edited in any way, except that some have been rotated 90 degrees for viewing purposes.The certificate has all the elements the State Department requires for proving citizenship to obtain a U.S. passport: “your full name, the full name of your parent(s), date and place of birth, sex, date the birth record was filed, and the seal or other certification of the official custodian of such records.” The names, date and place of birth, and filing date are all evident on the scanned version, and you can see the seal above.

The document is a “certification of birth,” also known as a short-form birth certificate. The long form is drawn up by the hospital and includes additional information such as birth weight and parents’ hometowns. The short form is printed by the state and draws from a database with fewer details. The Hawaii Department of Health’s birth record request form does not give the option to request a photocopy of your long-form birth certificate, but their short form has enough information to be acceptable to the State Department. We tried to ask the Hawaii DOH why they only offer the short form, among other questions, but they have not given a response.

The scan released by the campaign shows halos around the black text, making it look (to some) as though the text might have been pasted on top of an image of security paper. But the document itself has no such halos, nor do the close-up photos we took of it. We conclude that the halo seen in the image produced by the campaign is a digital artifact from the scanning process.

We asked the Obama campaign about the date stamp and the blacked-out certificate number. The certificate is stamped June 2007, because that’s when Hawaii officials produced it for the campaign, which requested that document and “all the records we could get our hands on” according to spokesperson Shauna Daly. The campaign didn’t release its copy until 2008, after speculation began to appear on the Internet questioning Obama’s citizenship. The campaign then rushed to release the document, and the rush is responsible for the blacked-out certificate number. Says Shauna: “[We] couldn’t get someone on the phone in Hawaii to tell us whether the number represented some secret information, and we erred on the side of blacking it out. Since then we’ve found out it’s pretty irrelevant for the outside world.” The document we looked at did have a certificate number it is 151 1961 – 010641.

Blowup of certificate number

Some of the conspiracy theories that have circulated about Obama are quite imaginative. One conservative blogger suggested that the campaign might have obtained a valid Hawaii birth certificate, soaked it in solvent, then reprinted it with Obama’s information. Of course, this anonymous blogger didn’t have access to the actual document and presents this as just one possible “scenario” without any evidence that such a thing actually happened or is even feasible.

We also note that so far none of those questioning the authenticity of the document have produced a shred of evidence that the information on it is incorrect. Instead, some speculate that somehow, maybe, he was born in another country and doesn’t meet the Constitution’s requirement that the president be a “natural-born citizen.”

We think our colleagues at PolitiFact.com, who also dug into some of these loopy theories put it pretty well: “It is possible that Obama conspired his way to the precipice of the world’s biggest job, involving a vast network of people and government agencies over decades of lies. Anything’s possible. But step back and look at the overwhelming evidence to the contrary and your sense of what’s reasonable has to take over.”

In fact, the conspiracy would need to be even deeper than our colleagues realized. In late July, a researcher looking to dig up dirt on Obama instead found a birth announcement that had been published in the Honolulu Advertiser on Sunday, Aug. 13, 1961:

The announcement was posted by a pro-Hillary Clinton blogger who grudgingly concluded that Obama “likely” was born Aug. 4, 1961 in Honolulu.

Of course, it’s distantly possible that Obama’s grandparents may have planted the announcement just in case their grandson needed to prove his U.S. citizenship in order to run for president someday. We suggest that those who choose to go down that path should first equip themselves with a high-quality tinfoil hat. The evidence is clear: Barack Obama was born in the U.S.A.

Update, August 26: We received responses to some of our questions from the Hawaii Department of Health. They couldn’t tell us anything about their security paper, but they did answer another frequently-raised question: why is Obama’s father’s race listed as “African”? Kurt Tsue at the DOH told us that father’s race and mother’s race are supplied by the parents, and that “we accept what the parents self identify themselves to be.” We consider it reasonable to believe that Barack Obama, Sr., would have thought of and reported himself as “African.” It’s certainly not the slam dunk some readers have made it out to be.

When we asked about the security borders, which look different from some other examples of Hawaii certifications of live birth, Kurt said “The borders are generated each time a certified copy is printed. A citation located on the bottom left hand corner of the certificate indicates which date the form was revised.” He also confirmed that the information in the short form birth certificate is sufficient to prove citizenship for “all reasonable purposes.”

— by Jess Henig, with Joe Miller

Sources

United States Department of State. “Application for a U.S. Passport.” Accessed 20 Aug. 2008.

State of Hawaii Department of Health. “Request for Certified Copy of Birth Record.” Accessed 20 Aug. 2008.


Ordering a Birth Certificate

Since birth certificates are commonly needed, getting a certified copy is generally easy to do. You must make the request in the state where the birth certificate was issued, not where you currently live.

Each state has its own requirements for obtaining certified copies of birth certificates. In most states, you can make a request online through the state's registrar or Office of Vital Statistics. You can also order a copy via mail, telephone or in person.

In addition to submitting the requested information, such as your full name and date of birth, you will have to pay a fee to get a copy of your birth certificate. This fee varies by state. It’s a good idea to order several copies of a birth certificate so that you have extras available in case you need to submit more than one, or if one of the agencies who requires it does not return it to you.


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