Monday, September 03, 2012

A Field Day For "Birthers", September 3, 2012

Nothing is so soothing to our self esteem
as to find our bad traits in our forebears.
It seems to absolve us.
~Van Wyck Brooks

Hello Family and Friends,

Happy Labor Day to all of you! I hope it is a time of gathering with family and celebrating the life you share together.

Genealogy can be frustrating. I have written about this before, in particular about incorrect spellings. But a new level was reached when I was told recently about a doozie of a mistake in my aunt Thelma Shepard Boyd's birth certificate. She has had a copy of it for many years but the errors did not come into play until last month when she tried to get a driver's license in Missouri where she and Terry recently moved.

(The first picture from 1957 shows a young Thelma in San Diego getting ready to go for a ride in the family car.)

Thelma Lea Shepard was born in 1936 in the tiny town of Two Buttes, Colorado just two weeks before her nephew Rex Duane Russell. The only doctor in town - Dr. William P. Verity, 83 at the time - birthed both of them. But for some reason he got confused when filling out Thelma's birth certificate. On the certificate the date of her birth is correct, her parents' names and ages are correct, and her last name - Shepard - is correct. But the doctor got her and her nephew mixed up and recorded her given name as "Rex Lee". He had originally recorded her given name as Rex Duane, but then crossed out Duane and wrote in Lee. He also listed her gender as male. That's right: male.

It is a good thing Thelma has never run for President -- the "birthers" would have a field day!

(The second picture, taken in Two Buttes in 1937, shows babies Rex Russell and Thelma Shepard with their mothers Pauline Shepard Russell and Bura Davis Shepard. Pauline and Bura were daughter and mother.)

What makes this all so maddening after all these years, is that the Missouri DMV is now looking askance at Thelma and wondering if she is misrepresenting herself with such a bizarre birth certificate. She has been required, among other things, to get certification from a physician proving that she is female! As you might imagine, my dear aunt Thelma - the last person on earth to perpetrate a fraud - is more than just a little annoyed.

"There is no sense blaming the state of Missouri", I told her in a recent email. "You should blame Dr. Verity, the doctor who botched your birth certificate." 

Some who lived in Two Buttes at the time, have said that the late Dr. Verity was given to strong drink, which might help to explain things. But my Kilpatrick relation Marjorie Eldred, who has written about Two Buttes and Dr. Verity, tells me that that cannot possibly be the case. "Nothing I read anywhere indicated that Dr. Verity had a drinking problem," she wrote to me, "and I read a lot."

So it will remain a mystery for now - a crazy, maddening, hilarious mystery to be sure. After all these years the only thing left to do is smile and shake your head. If nothing else it reminds us of how different things were in small town America in the early 20th century, and the difficulty in spanning those years as we do family research.

I just hope my aunt Thelma doesn't have too hard a time overcoming the good doctor's snafu.
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