Were Your Ancestors Undocumented

Sometimes genealogists encounter difficulties locating vital records for their ancestors. The reasons why some records can be elusive are numerous. Today I would like to talk about one possible reason that you may be having difficulty finding a birth certificate for one or more of your ancestors. It is possible that the ancestor whose birth certificate you seek is one of millions of undocumented Americans. Undocumented Americans are people who were born in the United States and do not have a birth certificate or other means of proving their citizenship.

Some undocumented Americans come from immigrant families who may or may not have been in the country legally at the time that the children were born. Others, like a pair of sisters from Kentucky who are currently fighting to obtain social security numbers, were born to parents who are American citizens but their births were never formally recorded anywhere because the family was nomadic for most of their childhood. Still others were born at a time and place (such as rural Texas during the 1940’s) when it was common for children to be delivered at home by midwives and not recorded anywhere except perhaps at the church where they were baptized.

Undocumented Americans create a genealogical dilemma, to be sure, but they also run into problems in their day to day lives long before their kin begin to fret over why they cannot locate their birth records. The aforementioned pair of sisters from Kentucky want desperately to get good jobs, but since they do not have social security numbers no one will hire them. Others have been able to get by with documentation other than birth certificates, such as baptism records, for years but are finding out that new security measures have rendered their only form of proof of identity invalid. They cannot renew their drivers’ licenses, passports, or other essential documentation that they need for work, travel, and everyday life.

If you are having trouble locating a birth certificate for your ancestors, do not despair. It is possible that you may be able to find a baptismal record or other piece of information that can help you determine when and where they were born.