The Great Birth Index Fiasco

The Great Birth Index Fiasco

 Back in February I requested to see, among other things, the hand-written birth index for 1961 (or microfilms of the hand-written index), which existed in 1980 and was required to be retained permanently. The HI State Archivist confirmed that the HDOH should have the document, but the HDOH said they didn’t have it. The entire history of that request is here.

 The concluding response the HDOH gave was a claim that they did not have the handwritten 1961 birth index but that they could print the computer-generated 1961 birth index at a cost of $98.75, which I should send if I wanted them to send the record. They enclosed a Notice to Requester which outlined the reason for the specific cost (which included 4 15-minute periods for an office worker to “segregate” records, in addition to an hour to search for the record). The fine print of the Notice to Requester said that all requester obligations for the request had to be fulfilled within 20 business days or the agency would consider the request abandoned. Because I had never made a request for the computer-generated birth index there were no obligations for me to fulfill. The HDOH was simply telling me what it would cost to fill the request if I chose to make it.

 On July 29th I chose to make that request. I sent an e-mail saying that I would be sending a money order for $98.75 in order to get the computer-generated 1961 birth index and asking if I could have someone pick it up at their office  on Thursday, Aug 5th, if the money order was in their office by Mon, Aug 2. I also sent a hand-written letter officially requesting the computer-generated birth index, together with a copy of the Notice to Requester on which the cost had been stated and a money order for $98.75. My mail delivery  confirmation showed that the written request and money order was in the HDOH office at 6:08AM on Aug 4th. (I’ve mistakenly quoted it as 6:02AM elsewhere, including to the HDOH).

 On Monday, Aug 2 I received an e-mail from the HDOH saying that my e-mail request had been marked by their IT Dept as being possible spam; I should re-send. I did not re-send because my question was moot by then and I had already sent the paper request and money order anyway.

 On Aug 3rd Mark Niesse of the AP asked the HDOH for copies of the last 3 requests for Obama’s records. Mine was one of those 3 requests. My e-mail account name was not redacted from the records the HDOH gave Niesse; he contacted me via Facebook to see if he could interview me for an article he was working on. (I did not respond to him until after the article ran.) On Aug 4th (while my paper request and money order was in their office) Niesse interviewed Janice Okubo, who told him that they offer the computer-generated 1961 birth index for $98.75 but nobody had sent in any money yet and they were asking the AG for a ruling on whether they should continue to “offer” that. She said that Obama is in their 1961 birth index and they allow the public to view index records in their office.

 So I have proof that my e-mail request for the computer-generated 1961 birth index had arrived in their office on July 29th and a paper request and money order had arrived in their office by the start of the day on Aug 4th – the very day when Janice Okubo told Mark Niesse that they offer the 1961 birth index for $98.75 (the amount of my money order). IOW, I have proof that I had my  request and money order for the full amount in the HDOH office while they were still “offering” the 1961 birth index.

 Niesse’s article wasn’t actually published until Saturday, Aug 7th. In response to Okubo’s public statement in that article that they hadn’t received any money from anybody, I contacted Niesse to find out when he had interviewed Okubo and found that it was during the workday on Aug 4th.

 Because I was concerned about how Niesse was able to find out my last name when I only use the name “Nellie” in my communications with the HDOH, I also e-mailed a request to see any UIPA responses the HDOH had sent out containing a request by me. They sent me a cover letter and enclosed their response to Niesse’s request,  including my July 29th request – flagged as possible spam but with almost the entire text visible.

 I sent the HDOH a Cease and Desist letter , asking them to remove all references to my last name from their contacts with me and from the UIPA responses where they have referenced my last name. They have ignored my request, as their latest response to me contained my last name.

 I also contacted the HDOH and after a series of calls and workers was told they couldn’t find a record of my request; they didn’t know what had happened to it but I should contact hdohinfo. So I did. Eventually they told me in an Aug 13th e-mail that they were sending back my money order because I had abandoned my request since I hadn’t responded to the Notice to Requester within 20 days. And sure enough, they sent my money order back.

 I reminded them that the Notice to Requester had been sent to me to tell me that I COULD  request the computer-generated 1961 birth index, since the request I HAD actually made (for the handwritten index) could not be filled because that permanent record no longer exists (they claim). I asked them exactly when they say they received my request for a computer-generated 1961 birth index, since it had not been 20 business days since my first contact with their office requesting that particular record. At first they insisted that they had already answered all my questions so I made an actual UIPA Request for a copy of my request for the computer-generated 1961 birth index, including the date that it arrived in their office.

 They had already sent back the money order that was included with my paper request. They had replied to my e-mailed request, asking me to re-send it. And they had sent copies of my e-mailed request to both Mark Niesse and myself in response to UIPA requests. That’s 4 different times that the HDOH showed that they had my request in their office  – the e-mail request received by July 29 and the snail-mail request by Aug 4th.

 On the 10th business day they e-mailed to say there were no records responsive to my request – that they had no record of my request for the computer-generated 1961 birth index.  What they had acknowledged 4 different times before they now claim they don’t have.

 They’ve also said they only collect birth data in 5-year increments so they can’t release the 1961 birth index. So in the same request as in the last paragraph I also requested “to see any communications to or from your office regarding what changed from the time you told me that you could release the computer-generated birth index for 1961 and now, as well as any duly-passed law or regulation which says that index data may only be released in increments of 5 years.”

No records responsive to my request. (It is worth noting that their MARRIAGE INDEX is in a 6-year increment for the years 1960-65 only, based upon copies of  birth index pages they sent in response to a request)

I’ve also asked to see their communications asking for a ruling by the Hawaii Attorney General . They responded that there are no records responsive to my request. Compare this with the AG Administrative Rules’ procedures to amend rules (see Subchapter 4 ) or to ask for a declaratory judgment (see Subchapter 5 ) from the AG – which clearly require written communications.

 To summarize:

  1. The HDOH is refusing to acknowledge that my request and money was in their office on the same day that Janice Okubo said they offer the 1961 birth index for $98.75. They claim that my request doesn’t exist even though they have already sent a copy of it to both Mark Niesse and myself, asked me to resend the e-mail request, and sent back the money order I included with the written request. Retention schedules require these requests to be saved for 2 years.

2.  The HDOH has changed their claims to say they can only release index data in increments of 5 years. But there are no laws or regulations which say that and they have the physical capability of printing whatever they want. Disclosure of the exact year of birth is apparently not forbidden, because according to Niesse’s article, Okubo already told him that Obama is in their 1961 birth index. HRS 338-18 requires index data to be released to the public.

 3.  Janice Okubo stated in a public interview for an article that was published nationally that they were asking the Hawaii Attorney General for a ruling on the implementation and/or interpretation of laws and rules – a process which is required to be done in writing. But the HDOH claims there are no communications to or from their office regarding why their “offer” of the 1961 birth index no longer exists.

 4. All this is done to keep from having to release index data they claim is already accessible to the public at their office. They have stated that all index data is really about Obama. They have stated that Obama is in the 1961 birth index. But they appear to be lying and/or illegally destroying records, as well as disobeying HRS 338-18, UIPA, and their own Administrative Rules in order to try to avoid having to put their money where their mouth is.

 I give the complete details about this case because it is representative of a whole host of similar experiences I have had with the HDOH, as those who have read the blog are aware. Sadly, this seems to be typical fare from this government agency. And nobody in Hawaii’s government, media, or law enforcement will hold them accountable for it.

 But reasonable people all over this country are asking, “Why? Why so much unethical and illegal behavior to hide the public index records they say they’ve already confirmed?”


  1. Charlene
    Posted September 22, 2010 at 7:04 pm | Permalink | Reply

    If someone showed up at thier offices, they would have to show them the index? hummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
    what would they say then? It was destroyed?
    This is almost abusive!

    • Posted September 22, 2010 at 7:19 pm | Permalink | Reply

      They claim to be showing people the 1960-64 birth index to people in their office.

      But the index they showed the public in March didn’t have Obama’s name; the one they show now does. See

      There are other anomalies also. Notice, in the 2nd image in the above linke, that right above “Obama II, Barack Hussein” is “Obado, Duplicate Mae”. If there was a duplicate record for Mae Obado there should be a line for “Obado, Mae”. But where that line should be…. it instead says “Obama II, Barack Hussein”.

      There are about 5 reasons that I know of, to suspect that what they are showing people as the “1960-64 Birth Index” is actually a manipulated print-out of the actual 1960-64 birth index.

      It may be harder to manipulate the actual birth index, which may be why they are fighting so hard – and lying – in order to avoid having to release it.

      • Scott122
        Posted April 24, 2011 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

        I am sorry to say that “Duplicate Mae is actually some twin girl’s name. if you check, there is her twiin sister listed above. Some parents…

      • Posted April 24, 2011 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

        No, it’s a different name. Dolleen Bergonia Obado. Could be a twin or just a regular sibling, but there’s no “Mae” anywhere in the name so there would be no reason for them to call it a duplicate. If it’s a unique name it can’t be a duplicate record, even if it has the same BC# – as evidenced by adoptive names showing as unique even though a different name shares that BC#. To be a duplicate it would have to have the same BC# and the same name.

        Even names where they give the total middle name is a different record than the record under the name with just a middle initial, though they presumably have the same BC# because the names are so unique. For instance, there is a record for William A K Asing but in the same birth index there is another record for William Alexander Kaohelauliikauanaulu Asing.

        In addition, in a 6-year span there are 3 records for Bienvenido Aspili (husband) marrying Uise Fualau (wife) and another for Bienvenido Limet Aspili marrying her. Unless the same people got married 4 different times within 6 years these are duplicate records and yet they are not listed as duplicates. There must be some hidden data that makes the records unique rather than duplicates.

        I just don’t see any way that a record would be a duplicate if the names were different, because even birth and adoptive names – which would have the same BC# as each other – are listed as unique entries in the birth index.

        And it’s problematic that birth names for adopted children are included in the alleged 1960-64 birth index, because the BC under the birth name is legally invalid and is supposed to be sealed. For that birth index list to include those records means that the list includes legally invalid and sealed records.

        Unless the HDOH routinely includes legally invalid BC’s in their birth index, that particular index list has been altered to include legally-invalid BC’s in the list. Which makes the whole list worthless as far as proving that a legally-valid record exists for Barack Hussein Obama II.

        And it means that – once again – the HDOH is willing to violate Hawaii law in order to try to cover for Obama’s problematic records. See

        The parents’ names aren’t listed on the birth index. How do you know the parents are the same?

  2. Pat
    Posted September 22, 2010 at 7:13 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Thugocracy has arrived from Chicago.

    • Posted September 22, 2010 at 7:23 pm | Permalink | Reply

      From what I’ve read, there is actually a strong tie between the Chicago thuggery and the Hawaii thuggery. I remember reading one report that the then-chair of the Hawaii Democratic Party who signed Obama’s certificate of nomination (with the eligibility language taken out) was seen with elements of the Hawaii mafia. I don’t know if I could find that again, so consider it unsubstantiated, but even just looking at the life of Frank Marshall Davis (Obama’s mentor), there is a big connection between the communists in Chicago and the communists in Hawaii.

  3. SapphireSunday
    Posted September 22, 2010 at 10:56 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Is Mark Niesse sympathetic to you at all? If so, can you enlist him? He’s a reporter. Reporters like to dig and they like to make a name for themselves by going up against the powers-that-be, in this case the HDoH. I would think he’d be amazed by your story. That is, if he’s not completely in the tank for Obama, the HDoH, and a traitor to his own “profession”.

    It’s simply unbelievable that they will not release information that their own laws require them to release, while they betray your privacy by revealing your name to reporters, possibly putting your safety at risk. For what reason did they release your name? (If nothing else, you’d think they’d be concerned about you filing a civil suit against them.)

    How do they square claiming that they don’t have your request while at the same time copying it to a reporter?

    How can they claim that the original paper birth index from 1961 does not exist (or a microfilm of it) when their own laws require it to be retained, and you proved that as fact by kindly giving them the exact statutes?

    There is NO WAY the HDoH could have operated in 1961 without a paper index. No way.

    Either they had index cards or they had a handwritten, bound book to refer to in order to find birth records in their files. They had to have a cross reference, else they would not have been able to find any particular birth record to copy for citizens needing a certified copy.

    I said it before, but it bears repeating: Liar, liar, pants on fire!

    • Posted September 23, 2010 at 1:04 am | Permalink | Reply

      Good questions. I don’t know where Mark is coming from. He hasn’t seemed interested in pursuing the story any further.

      Someone on Free Republic noted that if my name was on my e-mail account then it’s about like sending a letter on my personalized stationery and then complaining because somebody reveals my name when they give somebody a copy of the letter. If I wanted to keep my name specifically unknown I should have changed the e-mail account so it wouldn’t have my real name on the account.

      Sigh. I suppose it’s a valid point. I’m such a computer moron that I don’t know how to do that. I just figured that if the rules say that you can choose an alias then the HDOH would have to call you by whatever you name you GAVE YOURSELF.

      Maybe I should take that point down, or re-phrase it. But I do think that the HDOH should have stopped referring to me by my last name when I identify myself by my first name only and have asked them to call me only by the alias I have chosen. It’s not a violation of a rule, I suppose, but it’s rude of them.

      I’ll have to see if I can have my husband change the settings on my e-mail so it doesn’t have my full name on it.

      • Aussie
        Posted September 23, 2010 at 9:00 am | Permalink


        what you can do is create an email account with Yahoo, Gmail or MSN. When you create the account use a name that does not have your name attached to the account.

        For example you could create with GMAIL an account name (example only)

        It is just a thought on how you can make the changes.

      • Posted September 23, 2010 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

        Thanks. Do you know if I could still use that address with Outlook Express?

  4. SapphireSunday
    Posted September 23, 2010 at 6:49 pm | Permalink | Reply

    It’s amazing how they believe that information that was routinely sent to newspapers for publication, that has been released already (supposedly) by the person in question, that used to be printed in newspapers and public registers, that by their own laws is public information subject to citizen requests–all that is now PRIVATE in their new opinion, which conflicts with their own laws.

    However, correspondence a citizen sends is fair game to be given to reporters ASAP, even when the requester asks for anonymity AND their own laws specify that the person can remain anonymous.

    Think about that. How hard is it to get copies of all HDOH emails, sent using taxpayer resources, concerning this issue?

    How long would they make YOU wait to get copies of their emails back and forth, for example, with Mr. Niesse?

    I’d LOVE to see those. Will they give you copies of all of Mr. Niesse’s emails to them?

    If not, what’s the difference between him and you? If they say it’s because he’s a reporter, have Sharon over at the Post and E-Mail News ask for his emails to the HDOH. For all his and any other reporters’ emails to the HDOH.

    Look how they readily hand over to REPORTERS correspondence that most citizens would expect to be private–not for publication, that is–at least not until an official UIPA request is made and goes through the usual, obfuscating channels.

    • Posted September 23, 2010 at 7:16 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Niesse did apparently make a UIPA request to see those requests so they were right to disclose them. For them to disclose them so quickly is definitely different than how they treat most people. Somebody at Free Republic mentioned the techniques of sandbagging (basically putting obstacles in the way) and gaslighting (changing everything in order to disorient somebody). Those techniques are definitely being used at the HDOH and elsewhere, like the Passport Office.

      When I initially asked the HDOH what had happened to my money order and request I was told that they would check to see, but that I should be aware that they have a 6-8-week backlog. I can’t remember if I included that in my documents or not so I’ll just include that exchange here. They said,

      “We are checking with Vital Records on your request and receipt of payment. Once we are able to confirm your payment, we will provide a status on your request. All mail requests to the Vital Records section of the department have been backlogged 6-8 weeks due to staffing and resource issues beyond the department’s control. We apologize for the inconvenience.”

      To which I responded,

      I find that claim a bit credulous, since your office received a snail-mail index page request from me in your office on June 18th and my SASE was postmarked on July 6 – which is a 9 business day turnaround when 2 furlough days and 1 holiday is factored in. So just 6 short weeks ago you were entirely on-schedule with fulfilling your requests in the very department that would fulfill this request.

      For you to have a 6-8-week backlog means that nobody in your office has done anything on mail requests at all since July 6th.

      Is that really what you mean to say?

      If so, then I request, pursuant to UIPA, the document which lists how much is paid in salaries for the Vital Records Department in a 6-week period so that the public can see how much money the taxpayers of Hawaii paid your staff to do nothing.

      If not, then I expect my order to be sent out by the close of day tomorrow, Aug 11th, as per the requirements stated in the UIPA Manual.

      Please respond so I can know whether to expect to see the salary information, or the order I placed.

      Thank you.
      Nellie ”

      Sandbagging. It’s what they do to you or me, but not to the AP.

      After I had submitted my first requests about a year ago, I read the OIP Opinion Letter which says that a requestor’s identity is not confidential, but it also says that if a person doesn’t reveal their identity then the agency can’t reveal it. I didn’t reveal my identity but my e-mail was set up to show my first and last name. So the e-mail revealed my identity.

      I could ask the HDOH for the correspondence between them and Niesse, and whatever was associated with a UIPA request would be public. I’m not sure about other correspondence. Niesse was kind enough to answer the questions I asked of him, so there’s at least that.

      • Posted September 23, 2010 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

        I should also say that they never responded to say whether that was really what they meant and enclose the salary information.

  5. SapphireSunday
    Posted September 23, 2010 at 6:52 pm | Permalink | Reply

    About that index: Been thinking back to how things worked in the olden days. They HAD to have some kind of cross reference: Names/BC#s/Dates at the very least.

    You KNOW they had something, otherwise, how could that item, whatever it is, have an official identification number and be placed upon the retention schedule?

    What may the index have been? IBM punch cards. This is the only way I can think of, other than a handwritten index like they used before computers, for them to easily keep track of and cross reference birth records.

    I bet they had a drawer of IBM punchcards. Each contained “index data” like name, sex, type of record, date of event, ID#, etc. 128 characters, iirc, of abstracted data, but which would lead them to the records in the actual files. It’s the only way they could find a birth record to copy when someone knew only incomplete information.

    When someone was registered, somebody keypunched an index card for that person. When they ran the index, weekly or even on a daily basis, they sorted those punch cards by whatever “key” field they needed the items listed by, for example, LAST name, and then they ran the drawer of cards through the computer so that it would print out a list of the index data by whatever key they sorted the cards on.

    So, there WERE index data. These computer lists, and possibly even the original punch cards, are probably in storage in their archives, according to their own rules.

    Maybe you need to play their game. Ask for copies of (or to have somebody VIEW) the 1961 IBM punchcards from which the index was created BEFORE they had a database and thus were able to produce an on-demand listing. These cards themselves may be on microfiche. I have SEEN microfilmed or even Xeroxed IBM punch cards. Not much data on them, but useful, nevertheless. They are historical data. They probably have NOT been destroyed. But you haven’t yet hit upon the correct “name” to use to identify them in your request.

    Or ask to see the computer-PRINTED index, CIRCA 1961, not any “handwritten” original index.

    Of course, they are playing dumb. They know what they have and they know what you want. They violate the spirit, if not the letter of their own laws. By deliberately obfuscating, by not HELPING you and instead HINDERING you, as you have suggested, they may be in violation of other laws.

    • Posted September 23, 2010 at 7:30 pm | Permalink | Reply

      From what the archivist said, I believe they did have punchcards from very early on. I’m not sure if they had them by 1961; maybe I should look again at what she said. I don’t remember seeing anything in the retention schedules about the punchcards though so I don’t know what might have happened to them.

      But I know that there was a paper index, VR-1, because in 1980 they submitted the indices to have their retention period determined. That is around the time they switched to electronic records so I think they were figuring out what to do with the paper records since they were also going to transfer the information from the paper records to the computer database. In 1980 it was decided that those original indices were supposed to be retained permanently, either as just the originals or the originals and microfilmed copies of them. The archivist confirmed that if the HDOH had them microfilmed they would have been microfilmed at the archivist’s office but that the HDOH never submitted them for microfilming.

      So they were given the exact reference number for the records. In fact, I had to show them the disposition schedule showing that reference number and description, because they claimed to not know what I was talking about.

      I have asked them to show me the actual record of when that index was destroyed if it was destroyed. They never sent me anything. I should check and see whether they answered that request at all. Probably just ignored it, like they ignore anything if I don’t ride them about it.

      I could look to see if there are any punchcards in the retention schedule. If they still have those, would there be a way to understand what’s on them?

  6. SapphireSunday
    Posted September 24, 2010 at 4:52 pm | Permalink | Reply

    There would certainly be a way to understand the punchcards.

    First of all, most keypunch machines printed the interpretation of the punched holes along the top of the card. In case that wasn’t done by their keypunch machines, it’s relatively easy to learn to interpret the hole patterns and translate them into words. See this link
    for images of how typical cards looked.

    However, since cards were limited to 80 or 96 characters, information was coded. (I was wrong yesterday; I was confusing binary code with IBM card code.)

    Typical codes would be: M for male; F for female., Dates like this: 080461 (possibly in Julian format to save one character). Maybe a location code, such as H for Honolulu; O for Oahu. BC#. So you might see something like this along the top of the card:


    But you could figure it out.

    Punchcards were widespread in the 1950s, still used routinely through the 1970s, even though key-to-disk (floppy disks) came into use in the early 70s. However, government entities were slower to switch over because of budgeting issues. So it’s safe to assume that Obama had an IBM index card for his birth and that IF he was registered in 1961, he ought to show up on any printed indices created for the year 1961–any that were created after 8/8/61.

    Since Hawaii did have and did use punchcards when Obama was born and since they MUST have had indices, then these would have been in the form of computer-printed reports created by sorting and interpreting, via a computer program, the data on the punchcards to make a cross-reference for use by Vital Statistics employees.

    They probably created these by year. Throughout the year, they would periodically run an updated list or lists, perhaps one by surname, one by BC# and one by birth date. As the year went on, as births took place, the reports got longer and longer. These reports would probably be printed on wide, green-and-white ruled computer paper and bound into folders that were hung in a cart, for easy retrieval.

    So there would be one final index for each year, with a constantly updated index for the current year. At the end of any year, the final birth index/indices would be created and then a new year would begin.

    SURELY, they retained every end-of-year computer-printed index. That’s what they don’t want you to see BECAUSE he probably wasn’t in the year-1961-ending index.

    Since you gave them the exact identification (reference number) for the records/reports you want, it seems to be deliberate obfuscation to pretend not to have them. They need to answer for why they apparently destroyed records that must be retained. Otherwise, they’re playing games or outright lying.

    As that researcher noticed in March, when s/he looked at the index at the HDOH, Obama wasn’t in it. Now he is there, which means that sometime between March and today, someone made sure that any new index created from their database contains a record for him.

    • Posted September 24, 2010 at 8:24 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Wow. Excellent detail. Thank you for that.

      I believe the counties would also have a written index – pages in a book. When you try to get records from the county, though, the website says that the HDOH has it all. I don’t know what happens if you visit the actual county courthouse and ask to see the index books. Sometimes I wish I lived in Hawaii…. or could visit briefly. lol

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