# Obama’s birth certificate number

Even before Barack Obama’s long form birth certificate was released this week, stories were being told about the certificate number, claims that it was bogus because it was out of strict time sequence with another birth. Now that we have the long form, fresh from Hawaii, that possibility of a fake number can be ruled out; however, we have a new bit of information that might help explain the evidence.

We know these certificate numbers from August 4th and 5th:

• Nordyke, Susan – 10637 – 8/5/1961
• Nordyke, Gretchen – 10638- 8/5/1961
• Obama, Barack – 10641- 8/4/1961
• Waidelich, Stig – 10920- 8/5/1961

The list is sorted numerically by birth certificate number; however, you might also note that they are alphabetically sorted by surname and that they are not in order by date of birth. My hypothesis is a batch of certificates was alphabetized by surname and then fed into the numbering machine and that hypothesis is borne out with the new information provided by CNN of the Waidelich certificate number. Note that NORDYKE and OBAMA are close both alphabetically and numerically (just 4 off) and that WAIDELICH is not close numerically nor alphabetically. Armed with these examples, is it possible to estimate the size of such a sorted batch?

It might be possible to get a better sample, but I have a readily available list of 88,799 surnames of those in the United States from the 1990 census. Names between NORDYKE and WAIDELICH represent 27%1 of all individuals. The certificates between and including NORDYKE and WAIDELICH number 284, leading to an estimate of 1050 certificates in the entire batch (284 / 27%)2. Hawaii reported 17,616 births in 1961, or an average of 339 per week3. So the batch size, based on an alphabetization assumption, is almost exactly 3 weeks worth of births.

Notes:

1The surname frequency table lists all surnames, but only the frequency of those names exceeding .001% of the population (about 18,000 names), representing 80% of all persons. The name frequencies added up between Nordyke and Waidelich were adjusted by dividing by 80%.

2The calculations were done to a higher precision and so the rounded math here will be a little off.

3In tropical regions (such as Hawaii), children are born pretty much evenly spread throughout the year, unlike the seasonal patterns found in temperate zones.

### 37 Responses to Obama’s birth certificate number

1. misha April 29, 2011 at 9:56 am #

Soros is paying you.

2. Scientist April 29, 2011 at 10:01 am #

I don’t know if this would affect your analysis, Doc, but the ethnic makeup of Hawaii is, quite different from the US as a whole, so the distribution of last names might be different. The Honolulu phone directory might be a good place to check this.

3. gorefan April 29, 2011 at 10:16 am #

Even within the alphabet there would be a distribution. It would be easy to see that the President is high up in the O’s. Names beginning with Oa probably aren’t that common, Oba would be one of the first to appear. For the Nordyke’s they would likely be toward the end of the N’s. There would be some Nu’s and those with last names that begin with two consonants. So, for three weeks worth of birth certificates, how many names would come between Nordyke and Obama?

4. Dr. Conspiracy April 29, 2011 at 10:29 am #

Scientist: I don’t know if this would affect your analysis, Doc, but the ethnic makeup of Hawaii is, quite different from the US as a whole, so the distribution of last names might be different. The Honolulu phone directory might be a good place to check this.

I don’t doubt that there are differences. I just don’t have a data file to work with (yet).

The National Death Index (NDI) might be a good alternate source, but I think I threw my copy away with all those CD’s I purged a few months back.

5. Scientist April 29, 2011 at 10:34 am #

Isn’t the birth index for Hawaii alphabetical? Wouldn’t it tell you how many births were between Nordyke and Obama and between Obama and Waidelich? I know (sorry nc1) it covers 5 years, rather than just 1961, but dividing by 5 should be pretty close, no?

6. Loren April 29, 2011 at 10:39 am #

For what it’s worth, we can also add that among the births listed alongside Obama’s and Waidelich’s in that week’s newspaper announcements, none of the parents’ surnames fall between ‘Nordyke’ and ‘Obama’ alphebetically. Assuming perfect alphebetizing, only two kids should fall between those names.

As it happens, Lucas Smith did some actual research here, and put online the Hawaii newspaper birth announcements online:

In glancing over them, I saw an Oakley, born July 28. Of course, assuming the alphebetizing scheme is correct, we still don’t know what specific time frame it would’ve covered.

7. gorefan April 29, 2011 at 10:43 am #

In the Hawaii Public Health Regulations Chapter 8 (now retitled as Chapter 117), Section 8. It says that local registrars must submit BCs weekly to the DOH. The exception is for the outer islands where, “all certificates on hand the 4th of the month following the month of occurrence shall be mailed immediately by airmail.” So it is possible that the week of the 6th, they received a stack of BC’s from outer islands.

8. Dr. Conspiracy April 29, 2011 at 10:45 am #

Scientist: Isn’t the birth index for Hawaii alphabetical? Wouldn’t it tell you how many births were between Nordyke and Obama and between Obama and Waidelich?

I left my copy in my other pants.

9. Paul Pieniezny April 29, 2011 at 10:48 am #

gorefan:
Even within the alphabet there would be a distribution.It would be easy to see that the President is high up in the O’s.Names beginning with Oa probably aren’t that common, Oba would be one of the first to appear.For the Nordyke’s they would likely be toward the end of the N’s.There would be some Nu’s and those with last names that begin with two consonants.So, for three weeks worth of birth certificates, how many names would come between Nordyke and Obama?

I immediately thought of Oates and Oakley:
http://names.mongabay.com/surnames_O.htm

But it is after Nordyke that you get surnames that are more frequent:
http://names.mongabay.com/surnames_N.htm

Norman and Norris. But if we limit it to Hawaii, Norris has a better chance of being there.
http://www.gens-us.net/map/genera.html

10. Dr. Conspiracy April 29, 2011 at 10:51 am #

gorefan: So it is possible that the week of the 6th, they received a stack of BC’s from outer islands.

That makes sense. One month’s births for all islands except Oahu (Honolulu County) would be about 225.

11. Joey April 29, 2011 at 11:20 am #

Here’s a novel birther theory. Obama was born elsewhere and then he was taken to Kapi’oloani Hospital to be examined by Dr. Sinclair. That is the reason for his out of sequence birth certificate number.
http://thedailypen.blogspot.com/

12. Slartibartfast April 29, 2011 at 11:22 am #

I did a back-of-the envelope calculation and got an estimate of 500/batch after the CNN report. I’m glad to see that you ‘did the math’ so to speak (did the statistics, actually) to get a better number (off by a factor of 2 is pretty good accuracy for a rough estimate) – more evidence for ‘nothing to see here’ and mundane reality over sensationalist conspiracy theory…

13. Loren April 29, 2011 at 12:38 pm #

Scientist:
Isn’t the birth index for Hawaii alphabetical?Wouldn’t it tell you how many births were between Nordyke and Obama and between Obama and Waidelich? I know (sorry nc1) it covers 5 years, rather than just 1961, but dividing by 5 should be pretty close, no?

But serial numbers aren’t applied on an annual basis; we’re looking at a period of a few weeks, max. And the index doesn’t provide birthdates.

The most the index would provide is a rough approximation of the frequency of surnames that begin with certain letters.

14. Scientist April 29, 2011 at 1:25 pm #

Loren: But serial numbers aren’t applied on an annual basis; we’re looking at a period of a few weeks, max. And the index doesn’t provide birthdates.The most the index would provide is a rough approximation of the frequency of surnames that begin with certain letters.

There are 2 numbers between the second Nordyke and Obama. 3 weeks is approximately 1/80th of 5 years. So the 5 year index should contain roughly 160 names between Nordyke and Obama

15. G April 29, 2011 at 1:26 pm #

Joey: Here’s a novel birther theory. Obama was born elsewhere and then he was taken to Kapi’oloani Hospital to be examined by Dr. Sinclair. That is the reason for his out of sequence birth certificate number.http://thedailypen.blogspot.com/

*facepalm*

The desperation of the diseased ODS mind knows no bounds…

As Forrest Gump always said, “Stupid is as stupid does…”

16. coleen April 29, 2011 at 1:38 pm #

Kapiʻolani Medical Center for Women and Children is part of Hawaii Pacific Health’s network of hospitals. It is located in Honolulu, Hawaii, within the residential inner city district of Makiki. Kapiʻolani Medical Center is Hawaii’s only children’s hospital with a team of physicians and nurses and specialized technology trained specifically to care for children, from infants to young adults. It is the state’s only 24-hour pediatric emergency room, pediatric intensive care unit and adolescent unit.

The facility was originally founded by Queen Kapiʻolani as the Kapiʻolani Maternity Home in 1890 for which she held bazaars and luaus to raise \$8,000 needed to start the Home. Kauikeolani Children’s Hospital opened in 1909 named for Emma Kauikeolani Napoleon Mahelona (1862–1931), the wife of Albert Spencer Wilcox (1844–1919).[1] In 1978, it merged with Kapiʻolani Hospital to become Kapiʻolani Medical Center for Women and Children.[2][3][4]

It is also known for being the birthplace of United States President Barack Obama.

17. Fred April 29, 2011 at 3:20 pm #

You can throw facts around till you are blue in the face. It will not make a difference because none of these facts will make him white.

18. kelth April 29, 2011 at 8:37 pm #

Fred: You can throw facts around till you are blue in the face. It will not make a difference because none of these facts will make him white.

Not even the fact that his mother was ‘white’?

19. Expelliarmus April 30, 2011 at 2:07 am #

gorefan: Even within the alphabet there would be a distribution. It would be easy to see that the President is high up in the O’s. Names beginning with Oa probably aren’t that common, Oba would be one of the first to appear. For the Nordyke’s they would likely be toward the end of the N’s.

I think you are assuming full, accurate alphabetizing prior to numbering — which I don’t think would be necessary.

I hypothesized before that (under the procedures in place in the early 60’s) that there was a gap in time between when the certificate was first received, and when it was numbered & indexed, perhaps as part of the process of microfilming. I also theorized that as the bc’s came in, the staff routinely would place them in a sorting bin or shelf unit, so all “A”‘s would go in the A-cubby, all “B”s in the B-cubby, etc. The value of such a sort is that if Mrs. Nordyke shows up wanting a copy of her babies’ certificates before the indexing & numbering step, instead of looking through a random stack of hundreds of documents, the staff only has to go to the “N” shelf (or pull the “N” file). Now it is possible that “N” file is well organized so that “Nelson” comes before “Nordyke” — but if at any given time there are only likely to be 20-30 certificates sitting in the “N” folder, it is not all that time consuming for a staffer to leaf through them. So efficiency might not have required full alphabetizing.

Again, keep in mind that (under my theory) the only reason for alphabetizing at all is to make it easy to find a specific file prior to the time it is numbered & indexed.

I raise this because it is not even necessary that there be 26 different files or sorting shelves. Depending on volume of incoming paperwork, instead of A, B, C, D — they could have had it organized as A-C, D-F — and actual placement in that group could be somewhat random. Which means that if Waidelich’s certificate is on the shelf marked W-Z, that certificate could end up at the very bottom of the stack of the very last group of certificates processed that week.

20. Judge Mental April 30, 2011 at 8:03 am #

Doc….no big deal but to avoid potentialy confusing any drive-by site visitors not quite as switched on as the regulars you might want to consider changing the mistyping in the following section early in the early part of the article…..

Nordyke, Susan – 10637 – 11/5/1961
Nordyke, Gretchen – 10638- 11/5/1961
Obama, Barack – 10641- 11/4/1961
Waidelich, Stig – 10920- 11/5/1961

Obviously these should all read 8 and not 11.

21. Judge Mental April 30, 2011 at 8:06 am #

LOL….I’d like to pretend that “early in the early” is a satirical deliberate entry and not a shocking mistype by me….but will have to own up to the latter.

22. Dr. Conspiracy April 30, 2011 at 9:43 am #

Judge Mental: Obviously these should all read 8 and not 11.

Scary. Thanks.

23. Dr. Conspiracy April 30, 2011 at 9:49 am #

Expelliarmus: Again, keep in mind that (under my theory) the only reason for alphabetizing at all is to make it easy to find a specific file prior to the time it is numbered & indexed.

I speculate that another reason alphabetize is to facilitate creation of some sort of index to aid in the retrieval of certificates later on.

24. Expelliarmus April 30, 2011 at 5:38 pm #

Yes, but I’m just suggesting a multi-stage process:

1) A the time the birth certificate is first received, it is date stamped and signed by the registrar (in this case, Lee, on Aug 8 61)

2) After Lee receives the certificate, he sticks it in a shelf sorting unit, such as the ones depicted in this image: http://goo.gl/PTNn0 — he simply sticks it in the tray marked “O”. (Let’s assume for a moment that the shelving unit happens to have 3 columns with 8 trays in it — meaning 24 shelves for 26 letters of the alphabet. That works out ok because they have combine some letters, perhaps P-Q & X-Y. Lee doesn’t bother pulling out the other certificates from the O – shelf — he just sticks “Obama” on top. Perhaps “O’Malley” on “Oakes” are already there, and before the week is out, “O’Reilly” is born and ends up on top of “Obama”. Lee’s job is done, it will fall to some different clerk in the office to do filing and indexing. (We’ll assume that Mr. Lee’s job title is “Deputy Registrar”)

3). Now lets assume that the indexing system is handled with a card file, as the office does not yet have a computer. So the next step is that someone whose job is primarily clerical stamps numbers on all the certificates, and then creates an index card that correlates last name to assigned number.. So each certificate is stamped, and at the same time, one or more index cards is created for each certificate, perhaps with the employee typing information onto the card. We’ll assume that this employee’s job title is “File Clerk”. File Clerk first grabs everything in the “A” cubby and works her way through, then she grabs everything in the “B” cubby and works through that group. As soon as she has completed a particular stack, she takes the certificates, in numerical order, and files them away in a numerically sorted file cabinet. She takes the index cards she has created, and files them alphabetically in a card file.

I’m thinking she may have 2 or even 3 sets of index cards for sorting, one sorted by the father’s last name, one by the mother’s last name, and perhaps a third by the child’s last name. That means that even in cases of adoption, formal name change, or dispute over paternity, there will be a way for the office to locate the file number when an inquiry comes in years later.

Being a government employee, if 5 pm rolls around and she’s only managed to work through the letter “M”, she goes home. Perhaps she does not get around to the letter “N” until two days later. Perhaps, she never does the entire alphabet in one day, but simply A-G on Monday, H-N on Tuesday, & so on. Maybe she’s not the only File Clerk in the office, and while she is working on G, some other clerk is working on H.

The point is that there is NEVER a time when every PAPER certificate in the office is fully alphabetized, because there are always new certificates coming in and other work to be done. (The File Clerks also have to keep track of death certificates and other records, plus may also be responsible for retrieval and refiling of certificates when people ask for certified copies).

Either the paper is sitting in the in-coming sorter, or it has been moved to the numerically-sorted file (where eventually it will get placed in bound volumes)

At the same time, the CARD files – which look like this: http://goo.gl/LMJtz – are ALWAYS fully alphabetized, because the cards are put in their proper place as soon as they are created. There is only a very short window of time when the indexing is being done that the certificates plus file cards are actually sitting on File Clerk’s desk. That time should be designed for maximum efficiency — probably a fairly small batch of, say, 20-30 records at a time, works best. (Too few and the file clerk is spending more time moving around than typing data into cards; too many and the file clerk gets bogged down and records can’t be located.)

Anyway — my point is that while I agree with the alphabetical sort idea, I don’t think that any given time there will be some files that have already been sorted, and some that are yet to be sorted — so no particular benefit in trying to get every as-yet unnumbered record completely sorted alphabetically. As soon as the number is stamped onto the document, the number is going to take precedence over the alphabetizing in any case. For that reason, it makes sense to put the number on the document at the same time as the relevant index cards are created.

Whenever the office goes to computers, the process becomes one of typing into a database rather than onto physical cards — but there probably still is the same data-entry sequence.

25. Keith April 30, 2011 at 10:01 pm #

Expelliarmus: I think you are assuming full, accurate alphabetizing prior to numbering — which I don’t think would be necessary…

Your hypothesis fits easily within my experience of governmental manual systems from the early 70’s which were just in the process of being turned into online transaction systems. The computerized batch systems of the time mirrored the predecessor manual systems quite closely.

The Doc’s experience is undoubtedly in these systems is undoubtedly greater than mine, but I was on the cusp of converting batch systems to OLTP systems. I singlehandedly rewrote several badly done batch systems that didn’t warrant the OLTP treatment yet, and some of these systems continued on well into the 80’s.

26. Keith April 30, 2011 at 10:31 pm #

Expelliarmus: Whenever the office goes to computers, the process becomes one of typing into a database rather than onto physical cards — but there probably still is the same data-entry sequence.

The first step in computerization would have been instead of preparing the index cards, they would have entered the information onto a keypunch sheet, perhaps 20 lines to a page, then a keypunch operator would have punched them onto cards, probably starting on the days work around 4:00 or so. By 5:00 they would have been ready for input to the computer, the job could have been scheduled for anytime overnight, or maybe even only once a week.

The printed reports would replace the card index, and had written sheets would suffice until the batch was processed into the computer.

I find it hard to believe that this was happening in 1961, however. In 1967 my School District had an IBM 1401 that was considered pretty flash for its day, even though it was just before the CDC 6000 and the IBM 360 hit the market. It did have one of those new-fangled disk drive thingy’s, but it didn’t hold much more than a pamphlet’s worth of data.

Tapes drives might have been 200 bits per inch. 2400 foot reels, I think 10 bit characters on a 1401? => about 576000 characters. At least 3 different sort orders are required for the reports, it would have taken HOURS for one sort run, let alone the print job which on early 1403 printers would have been about 1000 lines a minute if I recall correctly, but only on sparsely populated lines, and using very simple print trains. Jams were frequent.

I assume it did the accounts for the 5 high schools, 15 junior highs, and however many elementary schools they looked after. Students got 2 hours 2 nights a week to run our jobs (that is shared between about 100 of us across the district). I very much doubt that this machine could have handled the data processing required for the Hawai’i DoH back then.

27. Expelliarmus April 30, 2011 at 10:56 pm #

I don’t think they would have had data computerized at all in 1961, though I do think they may have been microfilming the records at that time.

I had a summer job working for a major federal government agency in the early 1970’s where a lot of information had to be tracked, and my job basically involved entering info onto index cards, something along the lines I suggested, but a whole lot [i]less[/i] efficient. We didn’t have computers or anything like that. At the same time (1973?) — the university I attended definitely used computers to track course enrollment, as the system required that students procure a punch card for each class they wanted to take and then submit their properly punched or penciled in card as part of their enrollment packet.

You probably don’t want to know what my “introduction to computer programming” class entailed. The first time I ever saw a computer monitor was probably in 75 or 76, when my law school acquired a Lexis/Nexus workstation.

28. Dr. Conspiracy May 1, 2011 at 1:11 am #

Expelliarmus: Yes, but I’m just suggesting a multi-stage process

I don’t see any problem with the process you describe. My only comment is that Lee was probably not involved in any of this state-level processing.

He signed under “Local Registrar” and a local registrar is sort of by definition not somebody in the state office. The second point is that the Nordyke certificate was signed by some who rubber stamped the word “Deputy” before his signature, suggesting that Lee was not a deputy, not having stamped his signature so.

29. Dr. Conspiracy May 1, 2011 at 1:21 am #

Keith: The Doc’s experience is undoubtedly in these systems is undoubtedly greater than mine

While my experience developing automated systems is extensive, I have very little experience with manual systems.

30. Expelliarmus May 1, 2011 at 2:11 am #

Dr. Conspiracy: He signed under “Local Registrar” and a local registrar is sort of by definition not somebody in the state office

In the case of the Department of Health in Honolulu, I think the state & local offices were probably the same. Currently, the main office of the Dept. of Health is on Punchbowl Drive in Honolulu, located across the street from the state capitol & immediately adjacent to Queens Hospital, and about 1.5 miles from the current location of Kapiolani Hospital. There do not appear to be any other health department offices on the island of Oahu, although there are district health department offices in various locations on other islands. So, unless things have changed since 1961, it looks like there was one office. The “local” registrar was probably just the designation of the employee in charge of handling vital stats for that island, unless they had a “local registrar” employed to work on site at the hospital.

Certainly there would be another step (and another employee) involved for registrations of births on the other islands, but my guess would be that for the Honolulu office it is a distinction in name only. It’s certainly possible that they kept the Honolulu pre-sorted (yet-to-be-numbered) certificates in a different sorting unit than incoming paper work from other islands. But my impression of the place from the photos I’ve seen is that it is still a fairly small operation when it comes to the people actually handling the incoming documents. The smaller the operation, the less the degree of specialization you generally see when it comes to employee task & responsibilities.

31. Critical Thinker May 1, 2011 at 7:47 am #

All this speculation strikes me as pretty silly. We simply don’t have enough information to say anything with any certainty about why the serial numbers are not issued according to the time of birth. It could just be that they started at the top of the pile and that the order was entirely random for any given batch of births processed. Or there could be more to it. We just don’t know. I know that this “anomaly” bothers birthers, but so does everything else about Obama. I don’t see anything particularly strange or interesting about it.

32. gorefan May 1, 2011 at 1:33 pm #

Expelliarmus: I think the state & local offices were probably the same.

Of the dozen or so BC put online almost all are date stamped by the local registrar and the state registrar on the same day. And the stamps look identical. The President’s BC and Edith Coates’ 1964 BC have the same registrar signature, but they were born at different hospitals. I my guess is that for Oahu the local registrar is at the DOH office.

33. Denise May 10, 2011 at 1:42 am #

How do you account for the page before this one showing his birthday as 11-4-61 Dr. conspiracy, when his birth certificate says 8-4-61 oops, maybe your confused.

34. G May 10, 2011 at 2:12 am #

Denise: How do you account for the page before this one showing his birthday as 11-4-61 Dr. conspiracy, when his birth certificate says 8-4-61 oops, maybe your confused.

What on earth are you smoking? His birthday has always been 8-4-61.

The official HI COLB confirmed that nearly 3 years ago. Where have you been?

What are you talking about…did you see some meaningless typo somewhere and get confused? *sheesh*

35. The Magic M May 10, 2011 at 5:05 am #

Well, obviously this is going to become another birther meme.

You know, like the one I read yesterday on the Greely Gazette where one birther claimed *Obama* had identified the doctor who delivered him as Dr Rodney West when in fact that was speculation by people on the internet.

But it fits with their standard method – after all, they also claimed *Obama* had named two different hospitals as his birth place when in fact it was a single article in a (student) newspaper.

Lies, lies and more lies – that’s all the birfers have.

36. misha May 10, 2011 at 6:27 am #

The Magic M: they also claimed *Obama* had named two different hospitals as his birth place

I read it was Yeshiva University Hospital. That’s why he got 78% of the Jewish vote.

37. The Magic M May 10, 2011 at 8:48 am #

I wonder why he doesn’t forge a circumcision certificate, might get him a couple of the remaining 22%. 😉