08 May 2012

Random Albany pictures, etc.

We spent the day in Albany yesterday. The weather was gorgeous and it was nice to walk around the old section of the city down by the river. The river, of course, is the Hudson, which flows south from here 150 miles / 250 km down to New York City.

One of the things we are doing here is trying to get Walt's parents' birth certificates, because we need them for a couple of administrative reasons in France. It turns out that in the state of New York, the child of a deceased parent is required to get a court order stating his or her reasons for requesting that parent's birth certificate.

Albany is the capital of the state of New York.

Both Walt's parents died many years ago. So he needs two court orders, I think, and we don't know whether we'll have time to get the court orders and the certificates before we go back to France on May 20. It's a real hassle. And when Walt told a clerk at Albany City Hall that he wanted his father's certificate for an application for French citizenship, the clerk brought all kinds of forms about dual citizenship — the U.S. doesn't recognize it, the clerk said — and said some things about the threat of terrorism.

In my case, my mother has gone to the courthouse in the county where she lives and successfully procured a copy of my late father's birth certificate. In the case of my mother's own birth certificate, however, it's more difficult. She was born in South Carolina.

I went on the state of South Carolina's Vital Records Department web site and found a form I could fill out and mail in to request my mother's certificate. On the site, it said that an "adult child of a deceased parent" was authorized to request that parent's record. Problem is — and neither she or I thinks it's a real problem! — is that my mother is not deceased!

When I downloaded the S.C. form and looked it over, nowhere did it say anything about the parent whose birth certificate you need being deceased. In the section where you specify your relationship to the person whose records you want, it just gives "adult child" as one option. I checked that box and got the form filled out and ready to mail off.

Payment for the birth certificate needs to be in the form of a money order or a cashier's check. In Saint-Aignan, I went to the post office and requested a mandat international — an international money order — payable in dollars to the South Carolina Department of Vital Records. The clerk at the post office in Saint-Aignan had no idea what I was talking about. It turns out they stopped the money order service many years ago.

Children on a dock, fishing in the Hudson at Albany

I went to my bank in Saint-Aignan, and they said they no longer provide cashier's checks. Both the bank and the post office said they could wire the money to South Carolina. But I think a bank wire arriving there without the accompanying form would just cause confusion. And besides, the funds would be wired in euros, not dollars, and I'm not sure the South Carolina folks would know what to do with euros. What amount in euros would I send, exactly?

We had a California Zinfandel wine with our lunch
in Albany yesterday.

I decided to wait until we came to Albany, buy the money order here, and send it to S.C. I need to do that today. Then I'll wait to see if they refuse my request because my mother is not deceased (if they bother to find out whether she is still living — she's lived in North Carolina since she was six years old).

Then we might have to go see about those court orders for Walt's parents birth certificates.


  1. Where are they? Is that a new trick by Mr. Blogger-Google?

  2. That Ravenswood Zinfandel was a household favourite during my Seattle years.

  3. Thanks for sharing the Albany pics. I haven't been there in (gasp) nearly 40 years (I'm sure my last visit there was before I was even born, obviously).

    I can't believe what you're already going through with the bureaucracies. We'll take a lesson from you.

  4. guess i'd better go looking for my birth certificate & my husbands as my daughter will be going that same route re french citizenship.....

  5. Ken,
    At 7:15, Virginia time, when I checked your blog there was nothing to be seen, just the title "Random Albany pictures, etc." I don't know what happened, since now it's OK.

    About birth certificates, it's a pain in the neck. Is that the beauty of federalism? To each its own? The Disunited States of America? Hope it goes well for Walt. For South Carolina, I think, as long as they get the money there won't be any problem. In any case, I keep my fingers crossed for both of you.

  6. Ken

    That's why my motto is " don't say too much to civil servants"

    I would have said that I needed those birth certificate to settle some inheritance from some long lost family member. Dual citizenship gets some govt employees on the edge.

    Good luck for both of you

  7. so can u use a copy of a birth cert or does it have to be more of a "certified" one

  8. My deceased parent's birth certificates were in their safety deposit box that became available to me when they started to decline and I had a Power of Attorney to manage their affairs. While alive, I ordered extra copies of my Dad's birth certificates from the state where he was born. There was no problem. I just had to have documented proof of who I was and a copy of my P.O.A.

    Ken, why not ask your Mother to request a registered copy of her birth certificate? You could fill out the required forms, send it to her with a pre-paid envelope and with a check to her to reimburse her.

    Good luck.

    Mary in Oregon

  9. Now, don't you feel SAFE?
    What a country we live in!

  10. CHM, it was my mistake. I hit the wrong button and posted an empty topic. Then I went back and wrote the text, inserted the pictures, and posted it again.

    Melinda, it's best for the person concerned to get his or her own birth certificate and then hand it on to other family members. My mother, believe it or not, has never had a birth certificate in her life. And yes, we need certified copies of our birth certificates.

    The Beaver, you are absolutely right. It's better not to volunteer any information when you are dealing with the bureaucracy.

    Chrissoup, yep! But I know that the U.S. government does not encourage U.S. citizens to have dual citizenship.

  11. Wow, who could imagine such an ordeal. I remember getting birth certificate copies for my husband's parents back before 2001 (and 9/11), and it didn't take much effort, and certainly no court order! That was here in Missouri. I'm sure that NY must be skittish about anything that deals with the kinds of items you need to get passports. Even now, I see, to renew your driver's license, you need several more serious pieces of I.D. than I remember ever needing before.
    Good luck!

  12. Good luck with the bureaucratic hurdles. Your mother might want to hang on to a birth certificate, just in case it happens in NC, given the new laws being passed in some states requiring much more voter ID. And thanks for the Albany pictures.

  13. ... et moi qui croyais que la bureaucratie française était la pire au monde !

  14. Once they have your complete "état-civil" on record in France, in Nantes, exactly, you won't have to go through culling all the documents again. The Nantes office will send you your certificates whenever you need them. You just fill out the request form on the internet. But what a chore to get all the documents in order in the first place!


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