How do you prove you are you?

Hello all, this is my first post but I have been reading and lurking for days since a coworker mentioned this site when we were talking about collecting tons of random factoids and having the noggin for ‘useless trivia’

Something someone I know is going through got me thinking not just about his particulars but also about how can one prove with no documentation who they are? Everything you get for ID is based off another document in this country. Advice on this situation is appreciated, but also I’m exploring the idea in general of how we ‘prove’ ourselves.

Someone I know lost all their records and cannot come up with a birth certificate due to being born a US citizen over seas to a military father. So how would that person prove identity?

Subject has been in the US since the 1950’s and record archive searches by appropriate authorities (not sure which agency) have come up empty regarding entry documentation that should establish citizenship and/or identity.

Social Security office says they are listed as a citizen, so we are presuming some form of proof had to be offered decades ago to get a SS card. But they will not hand over whatever they have on file if anything.

He has a valid ID in CA but subject is currently in FL and lost the ID.
FL has some abnormally high standards for proving identities.
All other paperwork was lost years ago.
No living parents.

Part of me is really intrigued here on multiple levels when looking at this as a logic puzzle using illogical systems (gov bureaucracies).

You never have to prove that you are you. By definition, you are you. Who else could you possibly be?

A birth certificate doesn’t prove your identity. Given your identity, it proves where and when you were born and who your parents are. But if the identity is not a given, the birth certificate does not establish it. A birth certificate showing that UDS was born in Dublin in 1962, etc, etc, does nothing to prove that the person now waving it around is UDS. He could be anyone.

So, your friend’s position is that he wants to get something from the State of Florida, and the state won’t give it to him unless he can produce his own birth certificate, and he cannot produce a birth certificate.

You say your friend cannot produce a birth certificate due to having been born overseas, on account of his father having been serviing overseas in the US forces at the time, and his mother having accompanied his father.

This could mean one of two things:

  • Your friend’s birth was never registered, because his parents simply did not comply with birth registration requirements in the country where they happened to be (or, there were no such requirements, but that’s less likely); or

  • Your friend has no idea whether his birth was registered in that country, and doesn’t know how to find out.

If the latter is the case, obviously further work might improve the position. But, assuming it doesn’t, what your friend can do is make a formal sworn declaration setting out (a) the circumstances of his birth, including all the details that would be on a birth cert., and (b) the fact that his birth was never registered or, as the case may be, that despite every effort he has been unable to discover that his birth was registered, and accordingly there is no government authority which will issue a birth certificate for him.

If either of his parents are still alive, they could make a similar declaration, setting out the details of his birth and swearing that they took no steps to register it.

The only other possibility is to register the birth in the country concerned now. That may still be possible, if there is someone alive who can attest to the necessary information, like a parent.

My friend Matt went through something similar. As a kid his family moved to Canada(from the US), leaving nobody behind. He did not become a Canadian.

As a teen/adult, he became estranged from his family(and I believe he lost track of their location). He later lost his ID.

To get a new birth certificate, he would have to travel to the states, but they wouldn’t let him in with no identification. He wouldn’t be permitted back into Canada either.

I’m not sure he ever resolved it somehow. The last time I saw him he was unemployed and destitute.

That reminds me of a Nasreddin story.

Nasreddin goes into a shop and asks the proprietor: “Quick! Have you ever seen me before?”


Then how do you know it’s me?!

If I really needed to prove who I am, my name is on my dentures.

If he has a military father, is it possible the Dept of Defense may have some records that may help? Especially if he was born in a base hopital?

I too was born oversea due to my father being in the military. Rather than a birth certificate, I have a document called a Consular Report of Birth Abroad (FS-240). A few years ago, I had to send for a copy of this document to change my driver’s license, and it was a pretty painless operation.

Your friend may be able to do same thing. I would think that an inquiry with the State Dept. would be a good place to start at least. There is more information at

Best of luck to your friend!

Some friend.:rolleyes:

So… he’s been living in a guard shack on the border this whole time?

In forensics, three of the major ways we ID unknown bodies are fingerprints, xrays, and dental records. In theory, I don’t see why those methods couldn’t work with a living person. Has your friend ever been fingerprinted? If his initial response is no ask him to think again. A number of employment and volunteer situations, such as anything in healthcare or involving kids, would have required it in more recent times. Or of course if he’s ever been arrested it’s a given. If so, his prints should on file with AFIS . Has he ever had an xray? If he has any surgical hardware in situ or old fractures that would facilitate the ID, but even without that, there are other things you can see on xrays that are individuating, such as the shape of your frontal sinus. It’s like a fingerprint. Of course, provided he ever had xrays, he would need to get new ones now, which I assume he’d have to pay for out of pocket, and obtain copies of the old ones for comparison, which due to privacy rules would likely be (or really should be) impossible without ID. So that’s a catch 22, in true bureaucratic form. He’d run into the same conundrum with dental records.

So, given that your friend is alive(or so I assume) and as such has, whether he wants it or not, the right to have his privacy protected, in practical terms none of these methods may be an option.

In a pinch we also use names on dentures to aid in IDing a dead person. But that is still considered circumstantial, as people are known to, believe it or not, share those.

I had a friend who couldn’t get a driver’s license without a birth certificate. But the courthouse wouldn’t give him a birth certificate without ID. It was a real Kafkaesque catch-22 situation.

Eventually, they accepted a doctor’s note swearing he was really him and gave him a copy of the birth certificate.

Our local healthcare network (Vanderbilt) has a voluntary DNA database. If you give blood for any medical procedure, they will optionally enter you into the database. I am sure it is not a unique system.

He presumably never left Canada. The poster means that even if he could get into the US he couldn’t leave. I don’t understand why he couldn’t obtain a birth certificate by mail like everyone else who has ever moved to a different country does. It’s not like he moved to Canada from Kazakhstan.

By mail he probably has to have a form notarized which requires

wait for it

Photo ID.*
*Some may allow two people who can swear you are who you say you are.

He’d need to present ID even if he went in person.

Are there any central clearinghouses for this stuff?

I have vague memories of giving my fingerprints when I was in school and the class went on a field trip to a local police station. Would they have saved those? I’m not even sure which town it was. Similarly, I’ve had lots of x-rays now and then, but would they check all the local hospitals? Dental records – how would anyone know which dentist I use?

I had no trouble getting a birth certificate from PA by mail. I didn’t have to get anything notarized. In fact, they offered to change the name that was on the original certificate to the name I currently use. That could save my a lot of trouble.

In fact, I have often noted that there is no unbreakable chain between birth certificates and identity. That is why this insistence on government issued photo ID is absurd.

My home state, Wisconsin gives its requirements here, and neither photo ID nor being there in person is required. Non-photo ID options (two required) include a checkbook/bankbook (old-school, admittedly), major credit card, health insurance card, recent signed and dated lease, utility bill or traffic ticket.

The next time you’re asked for photo ID, pull out that line, and see how far it gets you.

You’re making a fatal mistake–you’re assuming that the government operates according to the rules of common sense.

For fingerprints, you want the FBI. Last I checked, they had something like 130 million fingerprints on file.