I am always intrigued with family stories and constantly on the hunt to determine whether a story is correct. One of the more interesting of these family tales involved my maternal grandmother Placidia Margaret Goerlinger Deming. To begin with, Placidia is an unusual name. I only know of one other person who was my grandmother's cousin who shared the same name. As Placidia became an adult, she was always referred to by her friends as "Cede."
Many many years ago my grandmother told me a rather strange tale about when she was born in Clintonville, Wisconsin on 21 June 1902. Cede had informed me she was told by the older generation that the doctor who delivered her had been drinking prior to the time she was born. She went on to say that the doctor forgot her name when filing the birth certificate. So instead of Placidia Margaret, he wrote the name Lula Belle Goerlinger on the certificate. My reaction when I first heard about this was "Lula Belle!!! Really??" Granted Placidia wasn't the easiest name to remember but why Lula Belle? This was always something I remembered and wondered about the truth behind this particular family story. So, recently, I decided to look into this story and see if it really was true.
According to the Wisconsin State Historical Society, the state of Wisconsin didn't require counties to begin registering births with state officials until 1852. However, the law was never really enforced until 1880. Up until that time, some counties complied and others did not. A statewide registration of births didn't begin until 1907. Still going into the early 1900s, some individuals never had their births recorded which caused problems when qualifying for Social Security or military benefits. In the case where there was no birth certificate, a delayed certificate was then filed in the local county. Since Cede was born in 1902, her birth would have been recorded in the Waupaca County Register of Deeds. The Wisconsin State Historical Society maintains an online index of births prior to 1 October 1907 which can be found on it's web site (www.wisconsinhistory.org). This index can still be found on microfiche at various libraries and archives throughout the state of Wisconsin as well as the Family History Library collection.
I decided to search through the Wisconsin State Historical Society's online index only to come up with nothing. In fact, the index didn't have any Goerlinger birth registrations for 1902. The index did contain information on her other siblings but there was no information on Cede.
After my grandmother passed away in 1973, my mom had given me a copy of Cede's amended birth certificate. This certificate was filed on 16 October 1953 and had listed her baptismal record from St. Rose of Lima Church in Clintonville as well as an affidavit from my great great aunt Frances Etten Kemmer as supporting documentation. I figured the story must have been true and the amended registration was meant to correct her name contained in the original certificate. I later received a copy of Cede's baptismal record that was mentioned in the amended birth certificate. The name on the baptismal certifcate was also incorrect. The baptismal record listed her name as Margaret "Blasilia." At this point, I started feeling sorry for my grandmother since not even the local parish priest could get the spelling of her first name correct.
I finally decided to go file a request with the Waupaca County Register of Deeds office and get a copy of the original birth certificate from 1902. I indicated on the application that the certificate was amended in 1953 but I wanted a copy of the original certificate from 1902. After the application was filled out and mailed along with the required fee, I received the certificate from Waupaca about a week later. To my surprise, the certificate that I received was another copy of the amended birth certificate from 1953 (this one was actually a better copy). There was a note attached to the new birth record that indicated the 1953 certificate was NOT an amended birth record but rather a delayed certificate. Apparently, there was never an original certificate filed in 1902!
So after all these years, we found out that there never was a birth certificate filed for Lula Belle Goerlinger and apparently, the doctor nor anyone else ever filed a certificate for my grandmother's birth. We may never know the whole story about the Lula Belle side of this story. I still don't know the name of the doctor who delivered Cede back in June of 1902. The story about Lula Belle, although not correct, ended up being quite a family legend for many many years!
"Birth Records Research Tips," About our Birth Records, The Wisconsin State Historical Society, Madison, online <http://www.wisconsinhistory.org>, accessed 30 April 2017.
Placidia Margaret Goerlinger, baptismal record, 1902, St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, Clintonville, Wisconsin.
Placidia Margaret Goerlinger, original birth certificate-delayed, no. 62 (1953) Waupaca County Register of Deeds, Waupaca, Wisconsin, obtained 27 April 2017.