Citing a State Notification of Birth

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dlevenick's picture
Citing a State Notification of Birth

I've been puzzling this source for some time and hope for input on this topic. The Notification of Birth Record notice that many of us have in our source collection was sent out by the Bureau of the Census and by individual states. These documents look official and give the birth registration number, but they are not an Official Certificate. How to cite?

Is this a family artifact? a letter? a birth record? I'm leaning toward a family artifact because it appears to be a unique item that references the birth registration, but is not an official record (except as a family document) in its own right.  I have crafted various citations but would appreciate any input.

It looks like this topic has been discussed on the APG listserv and on different blogs, but without a resolution.  Genealogists on Twitter suggested I post here after I wrote about this last week on my blog here and here

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.



EE's picture


Your blogs indicate that you are doing an excellent job of thinking through the issues. EE might take one of two approaches:

1. Cite it as a government-issued certificate (EE 9.40 "Short-form Certificates"), with provenance added.

2. Cite it as a family artifact (QuickCheck Model, p. 111 or EE 3.24–3.25, 3.34), which some of your readers also suggested.

For those of you who are wondering why there is not just one "right" way: As EE 2.1 says, citation is an art, not a science. As historical researchers, we do need to learn the basic principles, concerns, and patterns. After that, whenever we find a quirky record that is not covered in some citation manual, we can confidently and wisely adapt.

The Editor

dlevenick's picture

Thank you for your helpful comments and encouragment. I'm finding the EE forum to be a valuable  resource and learning tool.

I like the idea of using a statement of provenance with the government-issued model; this makes it very clear that the document is issued by an "official" party. If faced with the governement-issued Notification and a souvenir type hospital certificate, it would be helpful to know the provenance of each in order to evaluate any discrepancies.

The challenge of assembling a citation is most definately an art, I'm finding that my technique benefits from a professional's critique. Thanks again.

Denise Levenick