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The story is much longer but here is the short version. My mother, about to turn 88, is her father's "love child" and was raised by him and his wife (not her actual mother). As a child she remembers finding a birth certificate in her mother's dresser listing a girl's name with a Polish-sounding last name and birth date several weeks earlier than hers. Her mother took it from her and tore it up. So a record of her birth actually exists, but she doesn't know the name, date, or anything, so we cannot request a copy. And she isn't even certain WHERE she was born. She made at attempt to search for vital records in the most likely state using her maiden name, but no records were found. My mother has lived her entire life with no birth certificate. She served in the Navy and has her discharge papers, and also has a SSN.


We recently moved her up from Florida to live with us in Wisconsin, and of course there is now a requirement, which seems iron-clad, that she produce a birth certificate in order to prove her identity in order to get a drivers license or even an ID, which she cannot do. To top it all off, her existing license expires in three weeks.


We cannot believe that she is the only elderly American with no birth certificate. She is a good driver. She has already had a huge number of changes to her life in the past two months; I don't want her to lose that last vestige of independence. What to do????

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I encountered a similar problem with the new requirements for a 97 year old. I cannot find her SS card to get her a new on driver ID card which just expired. This caused a problem with a handicap placcard. Mom has to show her lost citizenship papers from when she stood next to her father as a child during naturalization. She still gets SS payments and a SS number that was not accepted as proof of citizenship. She has an old passport that will not be accepted. She is also with severe dementia.
I have to go to immigration which is closed, pay a non refundable fee of $1100. I have the proper paperwork but there will be a several month wait, which means her old ID will be too old to process her replacement. Currently, immigration is a 2 hour drive and too long to travel with dementia. I know there is s backlog for green card processing by about a year according to my friend.

It may be time for letter writing to our legislators about this problem with elderly who lost proper paperwork with no way to backpedal. This means that these people cannot continue to vote. This xenophobia issue and changes in the law happened much too fast for elderly to collect this information. Plus there are few outlets to reestablish a paper trail that is too confusing to them and for us to pick up the pieces.
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JoAnn29 May 9, 2020
A passport is the best identification you can have. Even if it expired the info initially given doesn't change and is on record. When we renewed, I just had to fill out a form to update change of address, etc. They sent my old passport with the form. Two weeks later I received my new one with the old one which had a punch hole in it. I got my original passport in 1986, renewed in 2010 with no problems.
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I guess the first question is, at 88, is it still OK for her to be driving?

If yes, then what about just renewing her Florida license? Can you do that online or by mail?

I also suggest calling the main DMV offices for more answers, although it may be some time before you can get through as the offices are likely closed. Good luck!
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worriedinCali May 8, 2020
Her mom is a no longer a resident of Florida. So a FL license won’t do much good in WI. And since she’s no longer a FL resident, she’s not eligible to renew her license anyway.
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Alternative Documents
A baptismal certificate. Census records. A birth certificate issued by a local or military hospital. A certification of birth from the doctor who delivered you.
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Catnk9 May 8, 2020
Contact the County Health Department where she was born (or the counties closest to where she lived). They have records and
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If you haven't already, you might call the WI State Department or department that handles driver's licenses, and ask someone. I've found that they're far more knowledgeable than the people who staff the satellite offices; I think the latter's goal is to push people through and handle the routine aspects.

The main office of the department has more informed staff.

But also ask what the alternatives are if no birth certificate can be located.

I also think the Navy would likely have had to have enough information to verify her birth and citizenship.

Another alternative is to check with the records of the county in which your father lived at the time of her birth, on the offchance that her mother gave birth in that same county. If you have any other data tracing his whereabouts at that time, that could be helpful.

Was your father by any chance in the military at that time of her birth? And if so, was he stationed overseas? If so and if your mother was born in another country, I would think there must be immigration papers, but I think the INS would be the place to start and given the pandemic, I'm not sure they're fully staff up at this point.

Do you have any access to her medical records? Are her father and stepmother still alive?

Wish I could think of better answers.
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I recently finished reading Tara Westover's book "Educated". She didn't have a birth certificate; her aunt ended up swearing out an affidavit of some sort that she was who she was and was born when she said she was (there was apparently some disagreement in the family about the actual date; they are an interesting family.)

She must have had proof of her birth, citizenship, etc. in the past which allowed her to get her FL driver's license, to join the military and to vote.

Totally off topic, does she have any interest in doing a DNA test and finding the rest of her family?
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Your mother was required to present some date of birth evidence to get a SSN. There used to be a delayed certificate of birth process where affidavits along with any documents (like a family Bible) were presented to a county court that issued the certificate. The process may still exist just not used as much as when home births were common. I would try inquiring with SS to at least establish when your mother's SSN was issued, then check in the county or state where your mother was living at that time.
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Tothill May 8, 2020
We have a late family member in NZ, who was able to become a different person with his military records. As OP's mother was in the Navy, the Navy may have provided her with her SSN.

He had been kicked out of home and was 15 when he enlisted in WW2. He changed his name and age when he enlisted and nobody checked any documentation. When the war was over he had a complete new identity. The family did not know until after he had died, someone from his birth family reached out when they saw the Obit.
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I just checked the Wisconsin DMV site and found that they have an email address; I would write down this whole story along with a list of what documents your mother DOES have and ask for their advice.
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I don't have a birth certificate either. I got a passport with school records and doctor offices. I also used that I was counted in census reports. I have had a driver's license since I was 17, so there must be ways around it.
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