If You Don't Know Your Birthdate, Do You Even Exist?

I’ve wondered about people who don’t know their birthdays- say, orphans, people born in the African Bush (where they don’t keep track of such things), or people in similar circumstances.

Obviously you can’t get very far in an industrialized country without knowing your birthdate (can’t apply for a job, can’t apply for credit, can’t get a driver’s license, etc.).

So when an orphan is old enough to leave the orphanage and apply for a job, does he just make up a birthdate when he applies? Or how about if a Kalihari bush-man were to immigrate to the US, would the INS just tell him to make up a birthdate, so he could have one?

INS DRONE: When were you born?

KALIHARI BUSH-MAN: In the summertime.

INS DRONE: :rolleyes:

INS DRONE: Well, you look about 30. Let’s say June 29, 1971.

KALIHARI BUSH-MAN: Sounds good. Thank you.

:smiley: :smiley: :smiley: :smiley: :smiley: :smiley: :smiley: :smiley:

A friend of mine is adopted. He knows what year he was born, but not the day.

So he picked a day.

There was a feature article about such a birthdayless person in (I think) the NY Times very recently – say, the past three or four weeks. I’ve been searching their website/archive like crazy and of course can’t find it. Rrrrrr.

The piece was about a middle-aged man who was born in some war-torn part of the world whose family came to the USA. His parents and relatives did not know, or had forgotten, his birth date and he celebrated some arbitrary day until, recently, he was able to track down some school records in the “old country” where the real date was listed.

The interesting thing that I remember regards the official US government’s policy on unknown birthdays. When the date is unknown, they assign January 1 to the records. Whether they guesstimate the year, I can’t say.

According to a geneaology website I once visited, many immigrants to the U.S. from Europe in the 19th century didn’t know their birth dates and would estimate the year and choose a day resulting in lots of people being recorded as having been born on Christmas, January 1st, St. Patrick’s Day, etc.

A friend of mine adopted a girl from overseas, and although the Indian orphanage supplied a date and year of birth, based on the medical evidence, it was almost certainly bunk. Over the course of the first year or two that she was in the US, her estimated birth date fluctuated by as much as a year and a half, as her developmental data was refined. The doctors finally decided that it was approximately the month given by the orphanage, but the year was off by one, so the presumption is that the date was accurate, but that the orphanage changed the year to accomodate my friend’s request for a child of a certain age.

Presumably, the government accepts the word of the pediatrician for her “official” birthdate, and I think that she got a retroactive birth certificate.