I, Too, Can Push National Boundaries Around

Cook County Clerk David Orr
Bureau of Vital Records
Attn: Current Records
P.O. Box 641070
Chicago, IL 60664-1070

Dear Mr. Orr:

            I wrote your office a few weeks ago to note that the Certificate of Live Birth issued for my son Kirill Anatole, born March 19, 2014, lists his mother’s place of birth as “Russia, United States.” This seemed a bit strange to me. Not that I am a Russian patriot (I have no reason to be one), but I do want to spare my son the trouble of explaining an apparent absurdity for the rest of his life.

It is generally recognized that Russia and the United States are distinct countries. In fact they have never been the same country (excepting Alaska, which was a Russian territory before being sold to the United States in 1867). There is no such place as “Russia, United States.”

After I pointed this out and requested that the birth certificates be reprinted with more accurate information, I received a telephone message from someone in your office that I will transcribe integrally:

 Hi, Haun. This is Tina with the Cook County Clerk’s Office. I received your letter about your child’s, ah, birth record. There was no error made by anybody. The error was made on you reading the birth record. If you read the birth record carefully, it says Mother, ah, country of birth, Russia. Underneath there it says mother, co-parent, residence. That means where the mother is living. The country is the United States, and she’s living in the State of Illinois, in the County of Cook, in the City of Chicago. The birth records are correct. You did not read the birth record correctly. If you have any questions you can give me a call at area code 312-603-6623. So, there is no error on the birth records. You just didn’t read the birth records carefully on what section you are in. You can give me a call. My name is Tina. Bye.

Now I am willing to believe that the “birth record” contained separate blanks for “Mother’s Place of Birth” and “Mother’s Place of Residence,” filled in as Tina says. But the “birth record,” wherever it is, is not visible to me or to any other reader of the birth certificate, which says, absurdly, that Kirill’s mother was born in “Russia, United States.” Perhaps this is a problem that should be addressed at the level of reporting and transcription. Chicago has long been a city of immigrants (a reason for local pride), and I’m sure ours is not the only family with members born in a foreign country. Do other people’s birth certificates list their parents’ place of birth as “France, United States,” “Australia, United States,” “Czechoslovakia, United States” and the like?

I am enclosing the faulty birth certificates along with a stamped and self-addressed envelope, in the hope that you will see fit to correct the record and reprint the birth certificates. If that is not the case, then please return the birth certificates to me. But I hope you, too, believe in getting things right.

                                                Yours sincerely,


One thought on “I, Too, Can Push National Boundaries Around

Comments are closed.