94, 95, whatever
She came into this world 94 years ago today.
Or maybe it was 95 years ago today.
There was, you see, a major dispute over that simple fact.
There is no question but that she was the fifth-born child of Clay and Opal (Robertson) Cottrell, The Legal Genealogist‘s grandparents.
And, in time, she became my mother.
But when exactly she was born… well… that’s not quite such an easy question.
Everybody agreed it was March 21 in Midland, Texas, when Hazel Irene Cottrell, always and forever known as Totsy, entered this world.
But was in 1925 or 1926?
You see, of all my grandparents’ children, my mother was one of the few whose birth never got recorded in the official vital records of her state.
The oldest two were born in Oklahoma, and both of their births were recorded there. Ruth, who died as an infant, was recorded without a first name; the second born, Billy, was listed with all his details, except that his first name was spelled Billie on the certificate and he always used Billy as his spelling.
The next 10 were born in Texas, and — of the eight who’ve passed on — we’ve located birth records for Cladyne (1921), David (1928), Donald (1930), Carol (1931), Jerry (1934), and Marianne (1936).1
But the two born between Cladyne and David are missing: my uncle Monte and my mother. And my uncle David’s birth certificate was a delayed certificate, issued in 1944.
Monte’s California death record says he was born in 1923; that’s the year shown on his stone at the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery.
And my mother? She always said she was born in 1925.
Right up to the point where she applied for Social Security in 1987, at the age — she contended — of 62.
Except that the Social Security Administration didn’t agree at all.
The 1930 census, you see, recorded her as age 4 as of 1 April 1930, the enumeration date of that census.2 If she’d been born in 1925, she’d have been five by then. And the 1940 census recorded her as age 14 as of 1 April 1940 — with my grandmother indicated as the informant and a date of 10 April when the enumerator actually recorded the information.3 Again, if she’d been born in 1925, she’d have been 15 by that day in April when my grandmother gave the information to the enumerator.
And, the agency said, it had her school records, and they supported a birth year of 1926 as well.
So she had to wait until 1988 to begin collecting benefits.
She laughed about it later. Said she always said she was older to be able to do more things as a kid. So, she said, she guessed maybe they were right and she really was born in 1926. She accepted it enough that that’s what we ended up putting on her tombstone on her death in 1999
So happy birthday, Mom.
Whatever birthday it is.
Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “The whatever birthday,” The Legal Genealogist (https://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : posted 21 Mar 2020).
- I’m too lazy to cite all the sources today. So you can just trust me, okay? ↩
- 1930 U.S. census, Midland County, Texas, Midland, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 165-2, p. 247A (stamped), dwelling 287, family 317, Hazel Cottrell; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 21 Mar 2020); citing National Archive microfilm publication T626, roll 2376. ↩
- 1940 U.S. census, Midland County, Texas, Midland, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 165-3A, sheet 7-B, household 161, Hazel Cottrell; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 21 Mar 2020); citing National Archive microfilm publication T627, roll 4105. ↩