Time traveller establishing identity

Suppose a poor cowpoke is on the range in 1870, and he falls into a time hole and emerges in the present day. Obviously he has no Social Security number. No one is going to believe an old church record or any other documentation from his time. He is, in modern terms, a ‘non-person’ or ‘a man without a country’.

He’s going to have to come up with a way of supporting himself; probably as some sort of labourer. But unless he can prove he is a U.S. citizen, he can’t work. With no record that he exists, how does he establish his citizenship and identity? Any he can’t really be deported either, since there’s no way to prove that he came from another country.

I’ve wondered how people born outside hospitals get identity.

There’s all those survivalists. I’m sure babies get born in back woods cabins and those religious cult compounds. It must be tough these days getting ID after you’re an adult.

What about some sort of gene/DNA testing? If he knows where his family is buried; exhume the bodies and test?

Also isn’t there a way to tell where a person is from by their genes?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genealogical_DNA_test

However he will need to rustle a lot of cattle to pay for the tests.:smiley:

“Suppose a poor cowpoke is on the range in 1870, and he falls into a time hole and emerges in the present day.”

This reminds me of the old TV show “The Second Hundred Years”. In 1900 a (young/middle-aged) prospector in Alaska freezes and is resuscitated 67 years later. He is reunited with his son (now apparently older than him) and grandson who is now his identical twin. They sidestepped the issue of proving his identity.

You can still get a birth certificate for the child from the town/village/city hall.

Not much of an answer, but since most people consider time travel impossible, the more he insists, the more likely he’s going to be locked up in some sort of institution. So the problem of how he lives is solved, just not that it’s very nice. If he does manage to prove that time travel is possible, I guess he’d be a celebrity, and survive economically just on his notoriety.

Yeah; supposed this guy does produce proof–that he was born in 1840. How much good is that going to do him?

Also, you can use other documentation. My hospital birth records were lost and my parents didn’t get a birth certificate until I was a teen. So, they used my baptismal certificate get it.

As for other means, the tv show “Highlander,” where the immortals “died” and had to re-established themselves, the main character, “Duncan MacLeod,” mentioned how more difficult it was to do that due to computers. So, it looks like the institution for our time traveller.

It is my understanding that there are whole industries set up to produce such documentation. Although I have not needed to avail myself of such realistic documents, I believe they are available for a rather pitiful sum of money. They can be purchased in any major city, especially if the city has a multinational population center.

Practically speaking, though, our cowpoke would have to first obtain the necessary funds to purchase the identity papers. Again, in any population center of note, he would observe many people who were living in conditions with which he was familiar. There would be a group of people (mostly men) huddled around a campfire (although the use of a steel barrel might be a surprise to him). These people, once they accepted his bona fides as a homeless drifter, would welcome him into their circle, and would be happy to direct him to the nearest shelter where he might obtain a hot meal.

He would be faced with the choice of either standing on a street corner with a sign, or he might offer himself out as a doer of odd jobs, for a small fee.

By carefully preserving his resources, he would be able to save the necessary funds to purchase the identity papers. I believe I have read that such papers can be had for as little as $100, although the higher-quality specimens may start at $500.

He probably would not want to claim his birth year as being in the 19th Century, though. He would be better served in purchasing documents indicating a birth in the latter half of the 20th Century.

The question would be whether or not he would know that he needed such documentation. It is fairly common knowledge now, but would be a completely foreign concept to a person from 1870.

Maybe a cowpoke was a poor choice. Suppose our time traveller is educated and knows that no one will believe the truth. He makes no effort to prove that he’s 160 or 170 years old, because he knows it’s futile. Maybe instead of a cowboy, he’s a scientist or a Franklin or an Edison or a Wells. Someone who can evaluate his situation, and has a reasonable chance to survive in our world. Maybe he meets someone who either believes that he somehow was transported into The Future; or he meets someone who sees him as an eccentric young man and wants to help him.

In Highlander, MacCleod has had lifetimes to perfect his changes of identity. This guy hasn’t. Since he can’t tell the truth, and since he doesn’t know how to assume someone else’s identity, he might claim to be an amnesiac. Basically, he might show up at a police station or City Hall and say, ‘I know my name is Bill Petersen, and I know I’m American; but I don’t know anything else. I have no way of proving who I am, and I can’t remember anything at all to help track me down.’ Perhaps he would be taken in by people who try to help him; but given that this is impossible, the best that could be done is to re-educate him. (Let’s assume his mind is strong enough he doesn’t go mad through culture shock.) Does he become a ward of the State? Is he given provisional citizenship? Is there any way for him to become a ‘person’?

EDIT: I see there has been another response while I was typing (and getting coffee and such). The documents mentioned are fraudulent. Is there no way he could legally obtain documentation that says he is Bill Petersen (to use the name in the previous paragraph), and that he’s a citizen?

The developed countries with a reputation of treating refugees well have a similar problem. I recall reading the problem of travellers shredding their passports and flushing them during flight so when they arrive in the US or Canada, there is no documentation who they are or where they are from. Thus, the country has to first prove they belong to XXX before they can deport them back there. Many third-world countries compound the problem by being uncooperative, especially with problem people.

Only in the very roughest sense, doesn’t do our time traveller very much good.

Well there are lots of legal ways to go about this. First of all if he isn’t insane, merely claiming you’re from the future isn’t going to get you locked up in an institution. Look at all the people that claim to be abducted by UFOs but are otherwise normal. They are free.

The situation would procede most likely like anyone found suffering from a fugue

He could get a social security number eventually but he’d have to prove that he never had one before. This would be done, eventually.

As for citizenship, if a person is found and appears to be American, the immigration department would have to prove he isn’t an American. I’m an American, if I was found wondering around by the immigration department, they just can’t deport me. They’d had to have a lot of proof that I wasn’t an American.

Eventually the time traveller would be able to establish himself but there certainly would be a lot of red tape to cut through. But they have similar things with amnesiacs before.