Sorting Before Numbering BC’s?

Sorting Before Numbering BC’s?

Geographic Codes and Sorting Before Numbering BC’s

I want to briefly respond to the claims made in an article at – specifically the claims that

1. The 50% sampling that the CDC used in their Natality Report mandates that state registrars’ offices first sort birth certificates by location, then put them in sequential order, and then number them – in order to make sure that outlying areas didn’t get missed altogether in the reporting because all their BC#’s just happened to receive odd rather than even BC numbers; and

2. That the birth announcements in the newspapers are in order of birth certificate number.


Short answer: No; the BC’s were ALREADY in geographical batches by location of birth because the local registrars submitted all the BC’s for that registration district together.

The 1961 Natality Report justifies the accuracy of the 50% sampling in this way:

Final birth data for 1951-54 and 1956-61 have been
derived from 5O-percent samples which consist of only
even-numbered birth records. l4 Statistics for these years
were obtained by multiplying the sample figures by 2,
Prior to 1951 and for 1955, annual birth statistics were
based on the total file of birth records.

The sample data represent estimates which differ
somewhat from figures that would have been derived by
processing all the records. However, the manner in which
records are numbered greatly reduces the sampling variability
of totals for geographic areas. With few exceptions,
records are numbered in the State offices of vital statistics
as they are received from the local offices. The assignment
of the last digit in the number is not selective, and the
systematic sample of even-numbered records may be
assumed to be unbiased. Furthermore, because the records
are almost always in geographic order before numbering,
twice the sample count of births occurring in the great
majority of counties in table 3-1 in Section 3 is virtually
the same as the corresponding figure based on all records

Several points made there are confirmed by Hawaii’s own records and statements. HDOH Communications Director, Janice Okubo, has confirmed that the birth certificates have always been numbered by the state registrar and that for Oahu birth certificates they are almost always numbered on the same day as they are received by the local registrar.

The HDOH Administrative Rules in effect in 1962 – which are apparently the first state codification of the rules in effect during the Territorial Period – say that Oahu registrars were to collect birth certificates for a week and then submit them to the state registrar. Non-Oahu birth certificates were to be collected in the local registration offices for a month and then all the birth certificates in that office on the 4th of the month were to be air-mailed to the state HDOH office. So when the HDOH office got the BC’s they would either come in a pile from the Oahu registrars or else actually be in packages from each separate island – IOW, sorted by geography, as the quote above notes..

So a whole month’s worth of BC’s from Big Island, for instance, would come in one package. They would be numbered one after the other – and there would be no risk of those BC’s all being numbered with odd numbers, or even being disproportionately numbered with odd numbers, as Johannsen asserts would be the case.

The whole point of the CDC’s quote above is that the state registrar received the BC’s in batches from a particular geographic location (the local registrar for that area) and numbered them as he got them in his office, WITHOUT ANY SORTING BASED ON OTHER CRITERIA– and that is why 50% sampling could be trusted. The outlying birth certificates would NOT” get lost” amongst the Honolulu BC’s because the outlying BC’s would all come in together and be numbered one right after the other. If those BC’s had first been alphabetized, sorted by birth date or “date received by local registrar”, or sorted in any other way there would be the risk of the outlying BC’s being buried among the Honolulu BC’s, but the point of the above quote is that those kinds of sorting DIDN’T happen. The BC’s were received in batches from local areas and were numbered as they were received in the state registrar’s office. The BC’s from a particular area were numbered in sequence and were just as likely to be numbered with an even as with an odd number.

So what about the geographical coding? Short answer: The coding was done at the national offices; the state offices had nothing to do with geographical coding.

A general description of the vital records process and duties at local, state, and national levels is found at , with the summary chart on p. 69 of the PDF. To know the specifics about a particular state you have to look at the laws and rules for that state.

In Hawaii, the 1955 Territorial Public Health Statistics Act (which was added to in 1962 to convert to a state system) said that the National Office of Vital Statistics could either pay the real cost for their own copy of the state’s birth certificate microfilms, or they could pay the local registrars a standard fee/certificate to transcribe the data from the certificate. The CDC’s 1961 Natality Report says (on p 227 of the PDF) that with the exception of California, Georgia, Michigan, and New York City:

tabulations for 1961 are based on information obtained
from microfilm copies of the original certificates. These
copies were received from the registration offices of all
States, certain cities, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico,
and the Virgin Islands. The statistical information on these
records was edited, classified, placed on punchcards, and
tabulated in the National Vital Statistics Division (NVSD).

So in 1961 the National Vital Statistics Division got a copy of Hawaii’s microfilmed birth certificates. Page 232 of the 1961 Natality Report says NVSD workers codified and punched onto punchcards the data from all even-numbered certificates, and then tabulated the statistics using the coded punchcards. The geographic codes that Pen Johannsen refers to were codes that were entered at the NATIONAL office, based on the information found on the raw birth certificates. The instructions for coding were used by the employees in the NATIONAL office and are irrelevant to what the states actually did.


No. Some names are listed in only one paper, some in both, and some in neither, based on actual copies of the birth announcements (from all of August and September in both papers) and on the August births reported in the CDC’s 1961 Natality Report. The names above and below a given name in a list aren’t always the same in the Advertiser as in the Star-Bulletin. Some names appear in one paper weeks before they appear in the other paper.

To be truthful, the announcements themselves refute the idea that the HDOH even put out a list of births that the newspapers published. There are too many inconsistencies.

Take, for instance, the Nordyke twins. There is one birth announcement for both girls, and it only appears in the Advertiser. It appears on a different day than both Obama and Stig Waidelich, who supposedly were born at the same hospital within one day of each other and the Nordykes. By geography/local registrar all 4 of those children should have their birth announced in the same day’s list, if what Johannsen is saying is correct – and yet they appear 3 days apart in the Advertiser, and the Nordykes not at all in the Star-Bulletin. And yet Waidelich (who appears in the Advertiser 3 days before the Nordykes) supposedly has a number several hundred higher than the Nordykes. Obama, who appears in the same announcement as Waidelich, has a BC# several hundred lower than Waidelich – and there are nowhere near a couple hundred births announced on that same day.

Neither the announcements nor the alleged BC#’s make sense with Johannsen’s theory, with the theory that the birth announcements even CAME from a single list put out by the HDOH, or with any theory of how birth certificates were numbered. Either the BC#’s were issued totally randomly, or else the HDOH has been messing with their BC#’s.

The claim that the announcements surrounding Obama’s were identical in the Advertiser and the Star-Bulletin is simply not true. As I’ve published in another post here, the Star-Bulletin had 28 more announcements on Aug 14th than were included in the Advertiser’s Aug 13 list. The Advertiser’s Will Hoover claimed to look in the microfilms and claims that the names right above and below Obama’s name were the same and so that proves the list was from the HDOH – but if he really looked at that microfilm he saw that the Star-Bulletin had a LOT MORE names than the Advertiser had – which doesn’t fit the story that both papers copied from a single HDOH list. He chose not to report that. The images of the Advertiser and Star-Bulletin – WHICH BOTH CAME FROM SOMEBODY AT THE ADVERTISER OFFICE – were conveniently cropped and magnified at just the right level so that the lists APPEARED to be identical. But anybody who has looked at the actual microfilm copies would have immediately noticed that discrepancy.

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