52 Documents in 52 Weeks #17 – Bernice Strait’s Birth Certificate

Bernice Ruth Strait

Person of Interest: Bernice Ruth Strait
Relationship: Great aunt

Source Citation: New Jersey Department of State, Bureau of Vital Statistics, birth certificate no. 90 (1908), Bernice Ruth Strait; New Jersey State Archives, Trenton.

Document Description: This is a photo copy of the “Certificate and Record of Birth” for Bernice Ruth Strait. Copy is good, the handwriting is neat and readable, and the ink is dark. While this record is on an 8-1/2 x 11 inch paper, it is not possible to determine if this is the original size of the document. On the back, there is a certification from the executive director of the N.J. State Archives that this is a true copy of the original record on file in the archives.

Background information regarding birth certificates in New Jersey: It wasn’t until 1848 that New Jersey started collecting birth records for its citizens and then not until May of 1848. I find the Center for Disease Control’s Where to Write website especially useful for finding information about when different states started collecting vital records and where they’re kept.

For example, if you look at New Jersey and scroll down to the section labeled “Genealogical Birth, Marriage, or Death,”  you see that the New Jersey State Archives holds original birth, marriage, and death records from the period May 1, 1848 to December 31, 1914. You also learn that the New Jersey State Archives also holds microfilm copies of: birth records 1848-1914; marriage records 1848-1914; and death records 1848-1914. These materials are available for in-person use only.

Looking that the top of the page, you learn that the New Jersey State Office of Vital Statistics is where you need to write to get more current birth records. The remarks section says they hold records from 1916 to present. Which begs the question, “If the New Jersey State Archives has the records up to 1914 and the Office of Vital Statistics from 1916 to present, where are the 1915 records?” I suspect the CDC’s website needs just a bit of updating and the 1915 would be at the State Archives. It would be prudent to check with the Archives first before sending any money.

There are a few more rules for ordering more current records:

  • All requests must include a copy of the requestor’s valid identification, payment of the appropriate fee and proof of relationship to the individual listed on the vital record.
  • A State or local Registrar may issue a certified copy of a vital record only to persons who establish themselves as the subject of the vital record, the subject’s parent, legal guardian or legal representative, spouse, child, grandchild or sibling, if of legal age, to a State or Federal agency for official purposes, pursuant to court order or under other emergent circumstances as determined by the Commissioner.
  • All other applicants will be issued a Certification that state the document is not for identification or legal purposes.

Document Scan/Transcription:
State of New Jersey, Bureau of Vital Statistics
Certification and Record of Birth
Use Ink and Write Plainly

Name of Child: Bernice Ruth Strait
Sex: Female
Color: White
Date of Birth: Dec. 5th, 1908
Place of Birth: Warbasse, Lafayette Township, Sussex Co., N.J.

Name of Father: Ora S. Strait
Father’s Birthplace: N.J.
Maiden Name of Mother: Audrey R. Hunt
Mother’s Birthplace: N.J.
Age of Father: 29
Occupation of Father: Farmer
Age of Mother: 20
Occupation of Mother: Housewife
Number of Children in all by the marriage: 1
Number of Children now living: 1
Name and P.O. Address of Professional Attendant in own handwriting: E. B. Potter, MD (signature of professional attendant), Newton, N.J. (P.O. address)
Date of This Report: Dec. 16th, ’08

Analysis: This is a fairly straightforward (pun intended) document but it does have a few interesting things to look at.

  1. The date of the report is only eleven days after Bernice’s birth date. When searching for documents, you should look for things that are recorded as close to the time that the even happened as possible.
  2. The handwriting is the same for the whole document which means that Dr. E. B. Potter was the one filling out the form. A comparison of the “B” in Bernice’s name to the “B” in the doctor’s signature shows it’s the same person filling out all the blanks on the form.
  3. It’s not a delayed birth certificate meaning it wasn’t one issued long after the birth has occurred.

Given that’s there’s such a short time between birth and the recording, I think that this document falls into the original record category. I don’t see any evidence that the record has been modified. It’s also primary information as the doctor has attested that he was the attending physician with his signature. However, you can’t solely rely on this being true as adopted children often are issued a birth certificate that meets the needs of the adoption not of the birth. See my write up on Anna Karthaeuser and her son Charles for an example of this. It’s direct evidence for the question, “When was Bernice Ruth Strait of Sussex County, New Jersey, born and who were her parents?” This document explicitly answers that question without having to incorporate any other documents or evidence.


Bernice Ruth Strait with younger brother Carl

Bernice Ruth Strait was born on 05 December 1908 to parents Ora S. Strait (29) and Audrey R. Hunt (20) in Warbasse, Lafayette Township, Sussex County, New Jersey. At the time her father was a farmer and her mother was keeping house. Both her parents were born in New Jersey. She is the first child of Ora and Audrey as shown by the number of children in all by this marriage being “1” and that the number of children now living is also “1.” Physician E. B. Potter was the attending professional and is an MD from Newton, N.J. (A quick Google search reveals his full name was Emerson B. Potter.) He reported Bernice’s birth on 16 December 1908 to the state of New Jersey, Bureau of Vital Statistics, as required by law at the time. Base on analysis of the document, I’m fairly confident that there’s nothing strange going on here and this is Bernice’s true birth certificate.


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