Before I retired, I spent 36 years in health care information technology, working on medical records and vital records systems both in the public and private sector. I wanted to share my own perspective on Barack Obama’s long-form birth certificate.
One interesting feature of the document is a number of penciled notations in several data fields. These are classification codes. They were added almost certainly by the department of health, either when the form was originally processed, or later when the form was added to their computer system.
Particularly in older systems, numbers were used to represent data. Almost always, code “1” was used for “Yes” and “2” for No (sometimes “0” for “No”), and we see this here in block 7g for the “No” response. Race codes were not so standard, but almost always 1 – White and 2 – Black, and again we see this here in Ann Dunham’s race here labeled Caucasian. In the case of single-digit codes, code “9” was used for “Other,” and in fact “9” and “99” and “999” are still used by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) indicating “Other” for vital statistics reporting. We see “Other” coding for the Father’s race (“African”) and the “Kind of business or industry” (“University”).
One curious feature of the long form is the additional partial page shown on the left margin. We can say for sure that this is not the same layout as the right side because some of the lines don’t match up. I can’t say whether this area is part of Obama’s form or the one preceding it.
What the public may not be aware of is that hospital birth certificates are divided into two parts — the “legal” part and the “statistical” part (sometimes called the “medical” part). For example, in 1961 they asked the mother how many births she had given and how many of her children were still alive. We don’t have any specifics on all the other questions asked in 1961, but common questions asked today include birth defects, method of delivery (vaginal, Cesarean), whether forceps were used, whether there were any complications of labor, whether the mother smoked, whether she used alcohol and how much. This information is for statistical purposes only and is reported anonymously to the NCHS; it’s never part of a legal birth certificate. I can see on my own birth certificate where the medical information is cut off. This medical section seems most likely what is on the left margin of Obama’s long form.
Finally, I want to comment on what the long form physically is. It is the original certificate from a bound volume photocopied (hence the curved edge) onto security paper. The date stamp and the state registrar’s stamp were then added below. I don’t see an embossed seal, but such seals don’t show up well in scanned images.
Some silly claims are being made by a few folks that the document is a fake. All I can say is that such folks are too far down the rabbit hole of conspiracy theories to be saved. They are beyond convincing, and it’s not worth trying.