Smoky Mountain Family Historian

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Do the Official Vital Records Lie?

Recently I was talking with one of my cousins. She shared how her brother's middle name was erroneous on his birth certificate. The family even called him by the middle name his mother gave him at birth. However, when the birth certificate was pulled out of a safe so he could apply for a passport, the error was discovered.

In this particular situation, I can see how a doctor or hospital employee unfamiliar with the unusual name for this area at this time might have misheard it and written it down incorrectly or how a person at the state records office might have written the wrong thing from the form. Both middle names start with the same two letters, and both have two syllables.

The informant for the birth certificate should have been the parents. They would have known the name they were giving their son. The error in the record must have been introduced elsewhere.

Death certificates often contain problematic information regarding birth. The informants on these are often persons who were not present at the time of birth and may provide incorrect dates and locations. They often have incomplete parental information, and in some cases, erroneous information.

While the birth information on birth certificates is generally less problematic than birth information on death certificates, we need to reconcile discrepancies using all the evidence.

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