Growing up, most children in elementary school are required to do a family tree and trace their genealogy or lineage as far back as they can. Of course, being lucky in life my mom and dad could trace their lineage back to some centuries before. My mother told me stories of my great grandmother, who was full blooded Native American from Mexico, who came with my great grandfather ,who was from Spain and immigrated to Mexico, to California. According to my mother and grandmother, my great grandfather rode with Pancho Villa, a Mexican revolutionary general. My father told me stories of his ancestors as he also has a mix of several lineages in his arsenal of genealogy. In fact, one of my father’s supposed badges of honor, if you will, is his ,therefore my, relation to Matthew Thornton who for you history buffs was a founding father and signer of the United States Declaration of Independence as a representative of New Hampshire. It still amazes me today that my family comes from such diverse history and culture.
But what’s in a name? Even with rich oral traditions that traces my history or for that matter human history back centuries or even to the beginning of time, why does our names remain so powerful? Most people would say it identifies who we are, our status, and our family heritage, while others simply see it as an easier way to communicate between individuals instead of “you guys.” A name offers a way for the individual to stand out and be identified, however little weight can be given to this argument when so many people have the same first name and some even the same last name.
To the good old United States, the name is our birth right and a way to document who we are, what we do and where to find us. The ultimate name identifier for government purposes would be the birth certificate which identifies all of these criteria plus is what some refer to as a “breeder document.” A “breeder document” as such generates all other government and private documents of identity and entitlement. According to Daily Bastardette (yes it is a real website), “the government has positioned itself as the arbiter and creator of identity, bestowing upon each of us, the legitimacy of our existence, we cannot function in a “normal” way for long without it. What were once routine activities everyone could enjoy, are now mediated by a piece of government paper issued to us at its discretion.”
I myself never really thought about it as I never had the issue of getting my birth certificate, however my dad is whole other issue entirely. Waking up this morning, I came upon a confusing site. My mother and sister, opening an envelope from an expediting services for my father’s birth certificate, found that according to the county of his birth my father does not exist and there are no records. My jaw dropped as I tried to figure out why this was happening… maybe the place burned down where his birth certificate was, maybe the name was not right or the service messed up. Then it hit, no my mom literally hit me, according to many states and even the federal government when a child is adopted the initial birth record for the most part is sealed with adoption papers or altered to reflect the adoptive parent’s residence even falsified with an amended birth certificate. What puzzled me the most about the issue is in the United States it is common practice screwing up generations of adoptees when trying to do simple things such as get a driver’s license, passport, or any other important document requiring a birth certificate.
To me a birth certificate is exactly what it means. A public record of where you were born, the time, the date, and the people who witnessed your birth. Does that really change when you become adopted? What I mean is although your parents change, one or both, the fact remains that at the time of your birth one woman and possibly a man was there to witness your birth and by changing the legal document the government is falsifying the history of that person. Why not leave it as it is? I guess in some small way they are protecting the child from the truth, but children will question it later in life and want to know, maybe not all, where they came from and who they are. When adoptions take place court papers are filed stating who the adoptive parents are and entered into legal record, so why does a birth certificate need to be amend to reflect that? Who the child is does not change as they were born to parents or a parent on a certain date, time and place. The child’s genealogy does not change either. In the end, from the many websites about and testimonies of adoptees, the idea of altering birth records to reflect adoption does more harm than good as simple privileges become a headache when necessary government identifiers linked to this “breeder document.”(Daily Bastardette and Perspectives on Adoption)
So what definition does one use…the government definition of a name or the genealogy that defines the name? My father has several forms of identification, yet getting a passport has not been as easy. For now, the search will continue…at least until we have to sneak him across the border into Canada. Just kidding Canada!