Re: Use of the term "Color" in late 19th century and Early 20th century NYC Birth Records #records

David Harrison

This is obviously a completely different practice to any that I have met in Britain, Ireland (or The Netherlands) where the Mother or Father goes to the Registrars' office within a period that has varied over time and country, to report the birth, the date and name of the child .  In some rural areas in winter, this may be months later.  it is not unknown for the Certificate to have been issued from an office in an area adjacent to that in which the child was born, because that town had shops or a market that was closer to the residence where the baby was born.
David Harrison
Birmingham, England

From: main@... <main@...> on behalf of Sherri Bobish <sherribob@...>
Sent: 23 April 2021 17:03
To: main@... <main@...>
Subject: Re: [] Use of the term "Color" in late 19th century and Early 20th century NYC Birth Records #records

Any time I have seen "color" as a category on a birth (and sometimes marriage) record it does refer to race.

I've seen forms that asked for description of complexion, however that is different from "color."  Complexion might be described as ruddy or fair, etc.

Many births were attended by midwifes, and many were barely literate and/or their English was limited.  It may be that the midwife did not understand the question. 

I do not know if most NYC birth certs were written out by the midwife, or by a clerk.  That would be an interesting thing to find out.

It may be that a clerk just made an error, or misunderstood what the midwife said, or the midwife simply did not understand the question.


Sherri Bobish

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