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Decoding the long form (Part 2)

imageThis is the second of a two-part series examining penciled notations found on Barack Obama’s long-form birth certificate. Part one covered some false claims made about the marks, and in particular some marks from an unidentified form bound with the long form and visible in the scan.

In this final part, I will present some previously unpublished documentation from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) on data coding from 1961 and attempt to apply it and what is known from other sources to the President’s birth certificate.

I’ll say up front that this article doesn’t attempt to refute birthers, nor does it contain any startling revelations or insights. It’s a reference article.

The Long Form

Barack Obama released a PDF version of a certified copy of his original hospital 1961 birth certificate at a White House press conference on April 27, 2011. That document resides on the White House web site and has been the subject of intense criticism from those whose ideas about the President’s birthplace are challenged by it.

The Codes

One of the interesting characteristics of the form is penciled notations adjacent to some data items, consisting of numbers and letters. While they were a mystery to some, it was clear to those us experienced in old data systems that these were codes for data entry operators.

The new document

In August of 2011, the Department of Health & Human Services released to me information under the Freedom of Information Act regarding the coding of natality (Birth) data in 1961. The first part of the response response consisted of a hyperlink to the 1961 document titled Vital Statistics Instruction Manual, Part II Coding and Punching, Section C, Geographic Code Final, Births, Deaths and Fetal Deaths Occurring in 1960-1961 (VSIM). The second part of the FOIA response was a 12-page document titled: Division of Data Processing, Vital Statistics Programming Branch, Tape File Information, 1960-1961 Natality Tape Files for the United States (NTFUS). I am publishing this information, I believe for the first time, with this article. (The document I’m providing has OCR turned on, however, not every word is recognized correctly and searching within the document may not find every occurrence of a desired word.)

The NTFUS is the layout for all of the data stored by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), all 26 reels of magnetic tape comprising 2,134,172 records for 1961. The document can be used to inform us how data was submitted by the states.

One interesting tidbit on the NTFUS (Page 3) is a footnote that suggests data was submitted to the NCHS monthly, a fact that has bearing on conclusions about batching of data by month of occurrence in the states. The footnote reads:

Massachusetts does not ship by month of occurrence. Shipments are numbered serially in columns 2-3.

Limitations of the methodology

There are a number of cautions that should be stated prior to decoding the data from the form:

  • We do not have any documentation from the State of Hawaii as to what instructions were given to form coders in 1961, and whether such instructions were consistent with NCHS documentation.
  • We do not know that coding done on every birth certificate conformed to official instructions; that is, people make mistakes.
  • We do not know whether the keying instructions provided to the states conforms to the final tape layout of the national file. We know, for example, that New York’s race data was re-coded by the NCHS before inclusion in the national tape (discussion of this later).
  • We do not know if more detailed instructions from the NCHS for coders found in Parts II-a and II-b of the Vital Statistics Instruction Manual would change our interpretation and use of the NTFUS.

Decoding the Long Form

Block 2 – Sex

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That’s an easy one. Barack Obama’s form shows “Male” and the penciled notation shows “1” and that corresponds with the code for “Male” from the NTFUS Page 5:

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The first column is the Tape Location and the second column is the length of the data field.

We have passed the initial “sanity check” and so with greater confidence we proceed.

Block 3 – This birth (multiple birth indicator)

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And here we hit the first snag. Here is the NTFUS field definition:

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I have nothing to add, so we proceed.

Block 7g – Farm or Plantation

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Here we see the form coded “2” meaning that the “No” box was checked. Note the introduction of the “X” code here for “Not stated.”

Block 9 – Race of Father

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I think this data field, more than any other, has been the subject of controversy, with many misrepresenting this as the race of the child, and its value as “African American.” Decoding this field is a bit tricky because there is no explicit code set stated for the Father’s Race. Indeed, I cannot find any data item on the tape corresponding to the Father’s Race at all (nor Mother’s race for that matter).

The only race codes specified were for the child (NTFUS Page 6):

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If these are the codes used on the long form, then the pencil notation of “9” indicates “Other nonwhite.” We can only speculate as to why a code not on the NCHS tape was coded. We note that there is no code for “not stated” because the child’s race is derived from that of the parents and some value will always be recorded. That is evident from the 1968 code notation below that indicates that only the parent’s race can be unspecified. As we have seen, a code of “X” was used for some missing data fields.

The 1961 race coding differs markedly from what is shown on the tape layout from 1968, which both has a location for parent’s race, but also strictly numeric codes for the race of the child.

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Block 11 – Father’s Birthplace

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This data field is absent from the NCHS layout and no code set seems applicable in deciphering the value of “2.”

Block 12a – Father’s Usual Occupation

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This data field is absent from the NCHS layout and no code set seems applicable in deciphering the value of “0.”

Block 12b – Father’s Kind of Industry

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This data field is absent from the NCHS layout and no code set seems applicable in deciphering the value of “9.”

Block 14 – Race of Mother

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Based on the race table for Child’s Race, code “1” indicates “White.”

Block 16 – Mother’s birthplace

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I can’t read the notation. It almost looks like a lower-case “a.”

Block 17a – Mother’s occupation

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This data field is absent from the NCHS layout and no code set seems applicable in deciphering the value of “0.”

Block 17b – Date Mother Last Worked

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This data field is absent from the NCHS layout and no code set seems applicable in deciphering the value of “0.”

Blocks from the other form

In a few cases, there are codes visible from fields on a form with a different layout adjacent to the actual birth certificate. We cannot make any firm conclusions about what these data fields are, and hence we cannot say what the penciled notations mean for these fields. However, the NTFUS document shows us the fact that there are many items of data reported to the NCHS by states that do not appear on the face of the long form birth certificate. It is a reasonable assumption that there is medical information on another section of the form that corresponds to the medical items on the NTFUS.

There are three code values visible on the left margin of the form corresponding to unknown data fields.

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The values appear to be “6,” “5” and “2.” A careful examination of the “6” suggests that there may be a “5” to the left of it, giving “56” as the value. Looking over the codes, there’s not much. The only feasible code match-up I could find is for code “2” that could mean “No congenital malformations.”

A Note on Place of Occurrence

Some birther nonsense has been attached to the penciled notations on the unknown fields, and the suggestion is made that somehow they indicate a birthplace outside of the United States. This suggestion (which is false on its face since the process of reporting natality data is solely for births in the United States) is further shown to be false by the NTFUS instructions for this item.

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Summary

No new information comes from the examination of the penciled codes on the long form, but one would not expect there to be. As we have seen time after time when examining this document and birther claims about it, everything is as it should be.

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19 Responses to Decoding the long form (Part 2)

  1. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy March 9, 2012 at 11:22 am #

    Immediately before I published this article, I printed a copy of the Daily Pen web page showing the fake 1961 coding manual race code image. I daresay they will be racing to scrub the evidence.

    What is ironic is that I probably would have never got around to writing this article and never gone back into my files to find the actual 1961 tape instructions I got last August via FOIA if Penbrook Johannson hadn’t come over here using an assumed name and made assertions about what was available through FOIA.

    See the comment and response:

    http://www.obamaconspiracy.org/2012/03/decoding-the-long-form-part-1/#comment-165028

    I wrote,

    I am going to address this in detail in part 2 of my article on the codes. The short answer is that I do not agree with your statement.

    right after discovering my copy of the 1961 instructions that exposed his fraud, and fraud is the right word.

  2. avatar
    donna March 9, 2012 at 11:33 am #

    re negro/african

    1) i remember from the 2010 census that “negro” was added because so many people ADDED “negro” and then checked it off in the 2000 census

    2) “negro” is an AMERICAN identifier

    3) back in the day, while in the hospital after a birth, parents were given a form to complete …… the data from the form is what the health dept used to produce the birth certificates

    4) as an aside, in ny you had 10 days to complete the form which is one of the reasons i attributed the out-of-order numbering of obama’s bc

    5) if obama’s father completed the hospital form, he most likely did NOT consider himself an (american) negro but an “african” by birth

  3. avatar
    Rickey March 9, 2012 at 12:13 pm #

    donna:
    re negro/african

    if obama’s father completed the hospital form, he most likely did NOT consider himself an (american) negro but an “african” by birth

    In fact, Africans in European colonies would never use the word “negro” to describe themselves because to them it was synonymous with “slave.”

    In Euro-colonial countries, the word “Negro” had a specific meaning beyond the simple connotation of colour or skin. The expression, “He is a Negro,” was equivalent to saying, “He is a slave”. Since almost all the slaves in certain countries and epochs were “Negroes”, “Negro” came to be synonymous with slave.

    http://www.trinicenter.com/kwame/2007/0901.htm

  4. avatar
    y_p_w March 9, 2012 at 12:33 pm #

    I”m wondering in the race category what would happen in the case that two parents originally from India (or even what was formerly India such as Pakistan and Bangledesh) give birth to a child.

    I’m pretty sure that category in the reporting was supposed to mean “American Indian” or what is currently “Native American”.

    However, if specifically asked for race, I’d be surprised if one didn’t put down “Indian”, which is what was in Bobby Jindal’s birth certificate for both parents.

    http://media.nola.com/politics/photo/jindal-birth-certificatejpg-0f45528d3269cada.jpg

    That would probably end up in the wrong statistical category.

  5. avatar
    donna March 9, 2012 at 12:40 pm #

    doesn’t “native” american, hawaiian & alaskan have to be DECIDED by a government agency cause they receive numerous affirmative action benefits?

    “The 1978 American Indian Religious Freedom Act uses a two-part definition which is especially influential. It defines an Indian as a person who belongs to an Indian Tribe, which in turn is a group that ‘is recognized as eligible for the special programs and services provided by the United States to Indians because of their status as Indians’.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Native_American_recognition_in_the_United_States

  6. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy March 9, 2012 at 12:46 pm #

    It’s important to specify the context of the question. For Vital Statistics purposes, race is whatever the parent considers themself to be.

    donna: doesn’t “native” american, hawaiian & alaskan have to be DECIDED by a government agency cause they receive numerous affirmative action benefits?

  7. avatar
    gorefan March 9, 2012 at 12:48 pm #

    Could a UIPA request of Hawaii for the type of data contained on a 1961 BC be helpful.

  8. avatar
    Scientist March 9, 2012 at 12:52 pm #

    Dr. Conspiracy: It’s important to specify the context of the question. For Vital Statistics purposes, race is whatever the parent considers themself to be.

    My wife put “human” for the whole family on our census form. It’s been almost 2 years and we haven’t heard back, so I guess it’s OK. I don’t know what they entered in the database.

  9. avatar
    BillTheCat March 9, 2012 at 12:59 pm #

    Really well done article Doc, thanks for this, it’s very helpful!

  10. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy March 9, 2012 at 1:04 pm #

    I believe, based on interactions I have had with HDOH and what I have read, that they don’t have documentation that old. Some old-timer out there might have copy on their shelf (of the national manual).

    gorefan: Could a UIPA request of Hawaii for the type of data contained on a 1961 BC be helpful.

  11. avatar
    Paul Pieniezny March 9, 2012 at 1:55 pm #

    y_p_w: However, if specifically asked for race, I’d be surprised if one didn’t put down “Indian”, which is what was in Bobby Jindal’s birth certificate for both parents.

    http://media.nola.com/politics/photo/jindal-birth-certificatejpg-0f45528d3269cada.jpg

    That would probably end up in the wrong statistical category.

    Indians not taxed, therefore. No NBC.

    You might think that this was settled some time ago (after all, there was once a half-Indian Vice=President) but not everybody agrees.

    http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/search/detailmini.jsp?_nfpb=true&_&ERICExtSearch_SearchValue_0=EJ751642&ERICExtSearch_SearchType_0=no&accno=EJ751642

    “Solid arguments will verify that acts which imposed citizenship on all Indians, contrary to the Fourteenth Amendment prohibition against tribal Indian citizenship, are unconstitutional.”

    So, Bobby may get his own special kind of birfers.

  12. avatar
    UnionJack March 9, 2012 at 1:56 pm #

    Doc – I agree with all the praise – this kind of thorough work is why you’re king of the debunkers.

    As to “African” and “African- American,” birthers love to claim that these terms did not enter the American lexicon untl late in the 1960′s. I have been reading (and greatly enjoying) Taylor Branch’s master work “Parting the Waters,” and on p. 320 he explains that correpondents with King in 1960 were urging him to stop using the word “Negro” as it was slave-based, and “informed King that the proper term was ‘Afro-American.’ (A committee had been formed in New York to promote public education on racial nomenclature).” This was in the summer of 1960.

    Also earlier in the book, he talked about very early discussions of using the “African” instead of colored or Negro, when naming the NAACP (p. 45).

  13. avatar
    Arthur March 9, 2012 at 2:28 pm #

    Well done, Doc! It’s a shame, however, that so much of your time and energy must go into refutting the stupid little lies of lying little men.

  14. avatar
    JPotter March 9, 2012 at 3:08 pm #

    UnionJack: Also earlier in the book, he talked about very early discussions of using the “African” instead of colored or Negro, when naming the NAACP (p. 45).

    Not to mention that Barack Obama, Sr. was from Africa. Why wouldn’t he call himself “African”? He certainly wasn’t “African-American”! And thinking that a man from a pre-dominantly black country, from a race and tribe of blacks, would self-identify as “negro” or “black” is just silly.

    In groups and cultures that are undifferentiated, all over the world, the term for a member of the group is nearly always synonymous with “person” or the concept “one of the people”.

    If birthers could think beyond their own skulls …. the places they’d go! The people they’d meet! The people they could become. ;)

  15. avatar
    James M March 9, 2012 at 10:24 pm #

    Scientist: My wife put “human” for the whole family on our census form.

    Bravo. I wish I didn’t have to wait 8 years to follow suit. Made my day, thanks S.

  16. avatar
    Keith March 10, 2012 at 1:10 am #

    Dr. Conspiracy: I believe, based on interactions I have had with HDOH and what I have read, that they don’t have documentation that old. Some old-timer out there might have copy on their shelf (of the national manual).

    gorefan: Could a UIPA request of Hawaii for the type of data contained on a 1961 BC be helpful

    It is fairly clear to me that the Hawai’ian coding manual would explain the codes for the fields on the BC that are not required by the Feds.

    Hawai’i was ensuring all data items were in their files even if the Feds didn’t want that info. If the Feds decide some years down the track that that info would be useful for some study they are doing, then it Hawai’i would be able to supply it without having to redo everything. Furthermore, Hawai’i needs to track additional data about native Hawai’ians that the Feds aren’t interested in.

    The data transmission to the Feds would then be an ‘abstract’ of the data actually stored in the Hawai’ian database. This is not an unusual process.

    My guess would be that Hawai’i had an IBM 1401 computer that read the punched cards onto tape. They may have had a 700 series mainframe too, but the 1401 would have been the unit record (cards, printer, paper tape) handler. The 700 series machine, if they had one (or, of course, the 1401 if they didn’t), would then have been used to create the tapes in the required format for the Feds.

    I doubt that Hawai’i had a 7000 series machine which was a transistorized version of the 700 series introduced in 1961. According to Wiki the IRS had a 7074 in 1962, I can’t imagine Hawai’i would have an equivalent business case for that. The University of Arizona had a 7030 Stretch in the early to mid 60′s.

    The first ‘real’ computer I programmed on was a 1401 owned by Tucson School District Number 1. It had a unique, ‘home grown’ monitor program (too primitive to be called an operating system), that allowed the operators to ‘stack’ jobs in the card reader and simplify the setup usually required between jobs. The FORTRAN compiler on the 1401 was way better than the FORTRAN for the IBM 1130 series computer that was designed especially for scientific work.

    The 1401 was a really fun machine to program for. When I was a Sophomore, I wrote a 1401 emulator for the CDC 6400. It was rubbish, but it did run my Roman Numeral to Arabic Numeral translator program that I wrote in High School.

  17. avatar
    nbc March 10, 2012 at 1:22 am #

    My second installment shows how a common used compression method caller MRC can create the noise and aliasing difference

    Mara Zebest Part 2 – Debunking the noise’

    I have shown in part 1 how the same compression technique better explains the halo and the ‘white background’ than Mara’s simplistic attempt. I have now 2 examples which are much better explained by MRC than by Mara, noting that in fact, she did not attempt to explain the ‘discrepancies’ found in part 2. Discrepancies which are the result of some simple and automated processes.

    In part 3 I will explain why Mara is likely correct to argue that the document has been edited, but again, no evidence of any fraud can be shown. Note that the mere editing of the scan is not by itself sufficient evidence of fraud. At best it creates an opportunity for fraud but given that we also have actual photographs of the same document, fraud will be much harder to argue. And finally, since the DOH of HI has confirmed President Obama’s birth on soil, well… Speculations about fraud in a highly compressed copy of the original hardly amounts to much really…

  18. avatar
    Patrick McKEE March 12, 2012 at 3:39 am #

    The term the “African Race” has been in use for several HUNDRED years.

    In FACT the FOUNDING FATHERS & the U.S. SUPREME COURT have both used that same term & it was still in use WHEN Obama was BORN.

    “Sir, I freely and cheerfully acknowledge, that I am of the African race, and in that color which is natural to them of the deepest dye ; and it is under a sense of the most profound gratitude to the Supreme Ruler of the Universe, that I now confess to you, that I am not under that state of tyrannical thraldom, and inhuman captivity, to which too many of my brethren are doomed, but that I have abundantly tasted of the fruition of those blessings, which proceed from that free and unequalled liberty with which you are favored ; and which, I hope, you will willingly allow you have mercifully received, from the immediate hand of that Being, from whom proceedeth every good and perfect Gift.”
    Benjamin Banneker’s twelve page letter to Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson
    http://www.math.buffalo.edu/mad/special/banneker-benjamin.html

    “The question with which we are now dealing is, whether a person of the African race can be a citizen of the United States, and become thereby entitled to a special privilege, by virtue of his title to that character, and which, under the Constitution, no one but a citizen can claim.

    A free negro of the African race, whose ancestors were brought to this country…The change in public opinion and feeling in relation to the African race which has taken place since the adoption of the Constitution…It will be observed that the plea applies to that class of persons only whose ancestors were negroes of the African race…The question then arises, whether the provisions of the Constitution, in relation to the personal rights and privileges to which the citizen of a State should be entitled, embraced the negro African race…And, accordingly, a negro of the African race was regarded…But it is too clear for dispute that the enslaved African race…And again, in 1833, Connecticut passed another law which made it penal to set up or establish any school in that State for the instruction of persons of the African race not inhabitants of the State…” SCOTT V. SANDFORD, 60 U. S. 393 (1856)

    http://supreme.justia.com/us/60/393/case.html

    The Pan-African flag, also referred to as the UNIA flag, Afro-American flag or Black Liberation Flag, is a tri-color flag consisting of three equal horizontal bands colored red, black and green. It was originally created as the official banner of the African Race by the members of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA). The organization formally adopted it in article 39 of the Declaration of Rights of the Negro Peoples of the World [1] on August 13, 1920, during its month-long convention held in Madison Square Garden, New York City, United States.[2][3] The flag can and has been used to represent African or African American unity or pride.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pan-African_flag

    And the INSTRUCTIONS on the form to fill out for a U.S. STANDARD CERTIFICATE OF LIVE BIRTH even today says that the FATHER’S RACE should be “what the father considers himself to be”.

    25. FATHER’S RACE (Check one or more races to indicate what the father considers himself to be)
    http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/dvs/birth11-03final-ACC.pdf

    So WHY should it be any surprise that Obama’s father, who was a KENYAN foreign exchange student & the first Black to attend the University of Hawaii, would consider himself to be of the AFRICAN RACE and/or other people might identify him as such?

    Patrick in California

  19. avatar
    Lupin March 12, 2012 at 5:37 am #

    I think the term that birthers are groping for but don’t dare utter is n**** — or perhaps “scary black man” for the more illiterate ones.