Monday, March 4, 2013

The Government isn't a Ministry of Magic

The process of genealogical research involves searching for information, evaluating the reliability of that information, comparing it to other bits of information one finds, and resolving conflicts.

At times I feel some individuals place too much faith in the reliability of some documents.

Particularly governmental documents.

For example:

There are cases where individuals were never, or almost never, referred to by the name on their birth certificate. There are genealogists who will insist that the name of this ancestor is what appeared on the birth certificate, as if a piece of paper with a government’s stamp magically overrides the name everyone who ever mattered to the individual called them.

My maternal grandfather had a brother named Allen. Allen’s 1914 birth certificate clearly states “Adolph.” The name ‘Adolph’ even appears on his father’s 1921 naturalization records. However, early census records indicate the given name quickly changed to “Albert” and then “Allen.” No one probably ever referred to him as Adolph after the age of 10. He may have been Adolph at birth, but his name quickly changed. No “Change of Name” certificate had to be filed with the government for this to be the case. The government doesn’t have magical control over our names.

In the above case, I argue, the government isn't right. But the government can also be wrong. (There is a difference between not-right, and wrong.)

If you were asked to identify what US Time Zone a specific state resided in, what would you consider the Primary Source of information? The US Legal Code on time zones, correct?

Below are quotes from the 1997 version of the code, linked to above.

Sec. 263. Designation of zone standard times

The standard time of the first zone shall be known and designated as Atlantic standard time; that of the second zone shall be known and designated as eastern standard time; that of the third zone shall be known and designated as central standard time; that of the fourth zone shall be known and designated as mountain standard time; that of the fifth zone shall be known and designated as Pacific standard time; that of the sixth zone shall be known and designated as Alaska standard time; that of the seventh zone shall be known and designated as Hawaii-Aleutian standard time; and that of the eighth zone shall be known and designated as Samoa standard time.

There’s also a specific section of the US Code referencing Idaho, which is split between two time zones.

Sec. 264. Part of Idaho in third zone

In the division of territory, and in the definition of the limits of each zone, as provided in sections 261 to 264 of this title, so much of the State of Idaho as lies south of the Salmon River, traversing the State from east to west near forty-five degree thirty minutes latitude, shall be embraced in the third zone: Provided, That common carriers within such portion of the State of Idaho may conduct their operations on Pacific time.

Reading Sec. 263 and 264 together, what is the logical conclusion about the State of Idaho?

Clearly: Part of Idaho is in the third zone, and the third zone is the Central zone. So, the part of Idaho that isn't in the Pacific zone, is in the Central zone.

That is, if you held the US Legal Code as a magically irrefutable document between 1966 and 2007.

In 1966, sec. 263 was changed to add the Atlantic zone as the first zone, and all other zones were renumbered. Section 264 wasn’t changed until 2007. So part of Idaho was in the central zone for 41 years. If you went by the legal code.

I would like to think this 2006 post of mine on my personal blog had some influence on the government's delayed action.

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