No Birth Certificate? No Problem (for some)!

In the days before birth certificates were required by states (usually the early 1900’s), are there any documents useful to assist in this dilemma?  There are many articles in books and online to answer this question, but I want to share just a few.

Today (March 22) is the observed birthday of my maternal grandfather, Oswville Lem Dukes. All of his most significant life events took place in March, so that’s why I’ve blogged about him so much recently. According to the Bible record, Oswville Lem Dukes was born 22 March 1887.[1]


The 1900 census is a useful tool in determining at least the year and month of birth for persons living in that time. Although the actual day may still be in question, at least there is one document to corroborate or contradict the observed birthday month and year.  Remember that just because it is written in the census does not make it true. According to this census record, Lem Dukes was born March 1887.[2]


Another document that might help is a World War I draft registration card. In this case, the birth date of 22 March 1887 is confirmed.[3]


As an aside to the authenticity of an actual birth date being in question in more recent times, I must tell about my daughter’s birth. Although I was in labor at the military hospital, she came more quickly than the medical staff thought she would. (My husband and I knew otherwise and tried to warn them based on the birth of our last son.) With no doctor or midwife on duty, only the nurse, my husband, and I delivered that precious little girl – and not in that order necessarily! It just so happened to be about midnight, and no one bothered to look at the clock the moment she arrived. It was about ten minutes after midnight when the nurse (while still waiting for the doctor to arrive) realized we did not know her exact time of birth. She asked us if we wanted to celebrate her birth on the 21st or the 22nd.  We chose the 22nd and agreed on the time of birth as 12:05 am. So, even in today’s world, there may be circumstances that don’t tell the whole story about an exact birth date.

And on top of all that, she was born in England. So, technically, she was born on the 21st in the United States.  Just something else to ponder…..


[1] Oswville Lem Dukes Family Bible Records, 1887-1931, The Holy Bible (New York: James Pott, 1901), “Births”; privately held by Jay L. Brinson [address for private use,] Cordele, Georgia, 2012. [Originally in possession of Rubanner Fletcher Dukes, passed to her son-in-law A. Earl Brinson at her death in 1969, and passed to his son Jay L. Brinson at his death in 2009.]

[2] 1900 U.S. census, Bradford County, Florida, population schedule, enumeration district (ED)19, p. 84 (stamped),  p.19A (penned), dwelling 405, family 408, John Dukes; digital images, ( : accessed 22 March 2014); citing NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 166.

[3]“United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,” online images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 22 March 2014), card for Os*ille Lem Dukes, Columbia County, Florida; citing NARA microfilm publication M1509, (National Archives, Washington D.C.); FHL microfilm 1556880.

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4 Responses to No Birth Certificate? No Problem (for some)!

  1. Terrie says:

    Your writings of our ancestors are fun to read, Margaret! Thanks for sharing.

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