Thursday, February 14, 2008

The birth of Alta Corene Martin

When my mother approached retirement age, she sent off for a copy of her birth certificate so that she could apply for Social Security benefits. The resulting certificate provided a few surprises:
  1. Her "real" birth name was Alta Corene Martin (not Altha Corinne Martin, the name she actually went by her entire life). The "Alta" part was not as surprising as it might seem, given that the story was that Mom's cousin was the person given the honor of naming Mom, and the cousin had a mother named "Alta".
  2. Mom was born in "Moons Township" in Newberry County. This township was named for a family by the name of "Moon", who lived in the southwestern corner of Newberry County, in the area where Chappells and Silverstreet are.
  3. Mom's mother, my grandmother Elizabeth Estelle King, was listed as "Lizzie" King. Not much of a surprise, as she always went by the name "Lizzie".
  4. Lizzie King wasn't really born in "Lawrence", as there is no such place in South Carolina. The place is actually spelled "Laurens".
  5. Mom was born in the P.M., and was delivered by a midwife named "Bulah Coleman". I will have to look for Ms. Coleman in the 1920 census to learn more about her.
  6. The certificate was not filed until 8 days after Mom was born.
I'm fortunate to have this document at all, given that South Carolina had only been requiring birth certificates for a few years prior to 1920!


  1. Excellent example of how documents can be accurate and inaccurate at the same time.

  2. Drew

    A couple of thoughts on the name inaccuracy from examples in my own family. My father is named after his grandfather who carried the middle naming "Earington" (at least that is how it is spelled on the grandfather's d/c). At the time of my father's birth there was confusion by someone - my grandmother or the nurse - and the birth certificate spelled the name on my father's certificate as "Earton". We say "Earington" (think Jane Eyre) but Dad has never had the certificate corrected... my Mom also further replicated the bad spelling on my brother (a Jr.)'s birth certificate, but we won't go into that...

    Another situation is my Aunt... she didn't like the spelling of her first name and dropped a letter... same pronunciation, but not how my Grandmother gave her the name... is there anything official... who knows, but I doubt it.

    BTW, I enjoy the podcast! Keep up the good work.


  3. I'm curious as to why you think the name on birth cert. was correct?

    Assuming that your grandmother was literate and that she was involved in teaching your mother how to spell her name. I'd expect that how your mother spelled it would be correct and not the certificate. Especially considering that it's unlikely that your grandmother filled it out.

    By the way I've enjoyed all of your podcasts that I've listened to.

    Jim Sadler