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How would one go about changing their identity?

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hfwriter
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How would one go about changing their identity?

Post by hfwriter » Sun March 27th, 2011, 11:40 pm

In the 1920s? I know that SSNs weren't issued until they were needed, so I'm thinking the birth certificate would have been the most important proof of identification.

Is that right?

If so, how would one go about getting a fake birth certificate back then?

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wendy
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Post by wendy » Mon March 28th, 2011, 10:39 am

There were no computers to back things up so a lot of documents were destroyed in fires, particularly when government buildings were destroyed. It would be relatively easy to claim your identity was lost in a burnt-out building and be reissued a 'new' one.
Also, I have heard of some people taking names from gravestones - people who died young but would have been around the same age as themselves - and then making out-of-state claims to that identity (perhaps stating their certification was lost in fire, flood, or some other disaster).
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Michy
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Post by Michy » Mon March 28th, 2011, 4:10 pm

[quote=""hfwriter""]In the 1920s? I know that SSNs weren't issued until they were needed, [/quote] The Social Security Administration was started by FDR in the 1930s -- so SSNs didn't even exist in the 1920s. :)

You are right, though, for decades they were issued on an as-needed basis. I didn't get mine until age 12 -- in the 1970s. I'm not sure when it was changed to issuing SSNs at birth -- sometime in the 1990s, I think.

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
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Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Mon March 28th, 2011, 6:23 pm

We had to apply for SSNs for our three children and (my) two stepchildren in the to claim them as tax exemptions. The youngest was born in '81, so they weren't issued at birth at the time. Although my oldest and the two stepkids had military dependent ID#s since all were born to parents in the Coast Guard.

Entering the military under a false ID was one way to change your name and create a paper trail for the new name at the same time. In the past, the services weren't too picky about checking things like birth certificates--I know a lot of old veterans who lied about their age to join up in WWII and apparently it wasn't a problem.

hfwriter
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Post by hfwriter » Mon March 28th, 2011, 8:16 pm

Thanks all! I think I'll have my character claim her records were lost in a fire.

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Mythica
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Post by Mythica » Tue March 29th, 2011, 8:55 am

I'm pretty sure that prior to 1900 in the US, registering for or being issued a birth certificate wasn't mandatory. So many people born before 1900 simply didn't have them. Births and baptisms may have been recorded by the family's church but this was not the same thing as a government issued birth certificate.

That was the case for my great grandmother who was born in 1898 - she was simply never issued a birth certificate so when she one day decided to change the spelling of her name, it was pretty easy. So if your character was born before 1900, having the birth certificate lost in a fire may not even be necessary. She could just say "I was born before 1900 and never issued a birth certificate".

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Post by wendy » Tue March 29th, 2011, 11:48 am

[quote=""Mythica""]I'm pretty sure that prior to 1900 in the US, registering for or being issued a birth certificate wasn't mandatory. So many people born before 1900 simply didn't have them. Births and baptisms may have been recorded by the family's church but this was not the same thing as a government issued birth certificate.

That was the case for my great grandmother who was born in 1898 - she was simply never issued a birth certificate so when she one day decided to change the spelling of her name, it was pretty easy. So if your character was born before 1900, having the birth certificate lost in a fire may not even be necessary. She could just say "I was born before 1900 and never issued a birth certificate".[/quote]

Good point Mythica. That would work too!
Wendy K. Perriman
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MLE (Emily Cotton)
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Location: California Bay Area

Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Tue March 29th, 2011, 3:03 pm

The thing with fiction is that, even though it may be true that in reality birth certificates weren't even issued, the modern reader might be critical of that story element because she assumes that they were. So the writer has to subtly educate the reader as to the facts without popping them out of the story.

I find something like this in renaissance re-enacting: glasses were common for all classes in the sixteenth century, but the fact that I wear mine in costume strikes faire patrons as an anachronism. So I have a pair with wooden frames with ties instead of ear-pieces which I use as a gig to start conversations about glasses in the renaissance.

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Post by Mythica » Tue March 29th, 2011, 3:38 pm

[quote=""MLE""]The thing with fiction is that, even though it may be true that in reality birth certificates weren't even issued, the modern reader might be critical of that story element because she assumes that they were. So the writer has to subtly educate the reader as to the facts without popping them out of the story.
[/quote]

True, I hate when historical novels explain stuff too much and parts of it wind up reading more like non-fiction than fiction. It's just a glaring reminder that this is a modern author speaking to a modern audience and totally ruins the any genuine feel of the setting and scene. But these days, with the internet, I don't mind when novels just assume you know stuff and don't explain it because I can just look it up. I don't mind looking it up if it makes the story and writing style sound more authentic. But I realize not all readers are the same.

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