The Perils of a Birth Certificate

Ah, the perils of a birth certificate. Thanks to Donald Trump, the question of Barack Obama's birth certificate is finally worming its way in to the mainstream of America's consciousness. But certainly we can all sympathize with Mr. Obama's dilemma; after all while he was there at his birth there may also have been members of the vast right-wing conspiracy present. These dastardly people responsible for all the evils that have befallen Liberals over the past half century may have known that one day he would be elected President, and as a result may have altered the documents making them unreliable.

With that possibility, it makes perfectly good sense not to release a document that may have been altered. Surely there is no other reason, is there?

Birth certificates are such fickle things. Take my birth certificate for example. It is a fake, but a legal fake. It was created out of whole cloth some 8 (plus or minus) years after I was born. When I was fortunate, through God's help, to find a couple willing to adopt a displaced orphan from WWII who had no identity or papers whatsoever, a major hurdle they had to overcome, in order to effect a legal adoption, was to create a birth certificate

This required some measure of creativity as the only thing they knew about me was that I sailed from Bremen/Hamburg, Germany and arrived in New York in February 1951. Certainly not a lot of detail to begin concocting a birth certificate. So they began by choosing a first name and the place of birth as Hamburg, Germany since that was the port of embarkation. With the easy part out of the way the real dilemmas began.

A birth certificate requires the listing of the birth parents. Obviously that was out of the question, so the lawyers and the courts suggested that my adoptive parents be listed as the birth parents. That solution then spawned another problem, what birth date do they put on the document?

Having committed to a birth place of Hamburg, Germany and themselves as the birth parents; how were my future parents going to explain what two American nationals were doing in a country the United States was at war with giving birth to a son? A difficult sell under the best of circumstances. for either them or me. It was self-evident that I was older than five or six, had I been born in late 1946 or 1947 which would have been the logical date to justify their being in Germany.

The solution: the war in Europe ended on May 8, 1945; moving forward 8 months (pre-mature birth) the date is January 8, 1946. Voila! my legal birth date. (Many thanks to the pastor of the local Catholic parish for that suggestion) The last remaining hurdle was the legal filing date, and there was no wiggle room in that issue; the filing date had to coincide with the adoption, so the birth certificate shows a legal filing date of 1952.

There is a side benefit to all this, as I have been able to be legally younger than I really am, something not many people can accomplish. And I have been able to avoid horoscopes, fortune tellers, and wasting money on genealogy searches and birthday parties. There have also been some entertaining moments when circumstances required me to present the birth certificate to someone (yes, Barack there were times I had to do so).  I have watched with bemusement as they first stare at the date and location of birth as well as the nationality of the parents and then at me all the while trying to figure out how it happened.  Invariably they are too embarrassed to ask but I have always been ready with a creative scenario that would have made Ian Fleming proud.

So you see, I can empathize with Barack Obama's own dilemma; you just never know what could be on a birth certificate.

I did ask my adoptive parents just after I received my citizenship papers, and they explained all of the machinations of the birth certificate -- why they did not choose a city here in the United States as my birth place since they had to make it all up anyway. They, being upright and honest citizens, told me that would have been illegal, as everyone knew I was born somewhere in Europe and not in the United States.

I just wonder if they had put Honolulu, Hawaii instead of Hamburg, Germany, if I could be occupying the White House instead of being someone barred from harboring that ambition.