Her Birth Certificate Was Changed to Hide a Family Secret
Months before my grandmother died of cancer, she told her daughter a secret. She wanted her to know the truth about her date of birth. She revealed to her daughter that her birth certificate had been altered to say that she had been born two months later than she actually was.
My aunt, who had always believed that she had been born in May had actually been born in March.
My paternal grandparents met in the late 1940s after my grandfather had returned from serving in World War II. They both came from a small town in the rural Midwest. Both of their families were deeply religious and held very conservative views.
Then something happened. My grandmother became pregnant, and she and my grandfather weren’t married. It would have been a scandal in their small-town community and within their conservative Christian families. So, they decided to cover it up.
First, they got married, then my grandfather enrolled in college in another state, and they moved far away from their hometown.
When their daughter was born in March of 1950, they had the doctor change her birth certificate to say that she was born in May. They didn’t return home until over a year after she was born, because at that point no one would have been able to tell the difference in two months of the baby’s age.
No one ever knew the truth until my grandmother told my aunt shortly before she died. No one else knew. I never heard my father or aunt talk about it. The only reason I know this story is because my aunt told my father who told my mom who told me.
My grandparents were deeply devout Methodists and very conservative. They passed their religious fundamentalism onto their children, and it was then passed on to my brother and I as well as our cousins.
My grandparent’s decision all those years ago had long lasting consequences. The sense of shame that they were instilled with in regard to pre-marital sex and the conception of a child outside of marriage was passed onto their son, my father.