Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Birth Certificate of Ruth Lillian HOEKSTRA

The image below is a photocopy of the birth certificate of my maternal grandmother, Ruth Lillian (HOEKSTRA) VALK DeVRIES, and comes from the DeVries-Hoekstra Collection:

Birth Certificate of Ruth Lillian Hoekstra, 1919

SOURCE: Michigan. Kent County. County Clerk's Office, Grand Rapids. Ruth Lillian Hoekstra birth certificate.

Certificate as to Birth

County of Kent }

I, LEWIS J. DONOVAN, Clerk of the Circuit Court for the said County of Kent, do hereby certify that upon careful examination of the original records on file in the office of the Clerk of said County and Court, I find the following record as to the birth of Ruth Lillian Hoekstra
Date of Birth January 16, 1919
Sex Female; Color White; Legitimate
Birthplace East Grand Rapids


Name of Father John Martin Hoekstra Residence Grand Rapids
Name of Mother Lillian Fern Strong Residence Grand Rapids
Birthplace of Father Michigan Occupation Plater
Birthplace of Mother Michigan

All of which appears as of record dated 5/7/19 and the same being the whole of such original record of said birth as
Recorded in Liber 21 of RECORD OF BIRTH on page 382

IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and official seal, at the City of Grand Rapids, in said County, this 4th day of February A. D. 1943

Paul Smits [signed] Deputy

This birth certificate brought me a bit of a surprise, as I had never heard that Grandma had been born in East Grand Rapids, but instead in Grand Rapids, proper. Was East Grand Rapids a simple adjective for part of the city of Grand Rapids, or was it a separate community altogether? I searched Wikipedia and discovered that it is indeed a separate community, established as a village in 1891 and incorporated as a city in 1926. I knew from scanning Grandma's baby book that she had been born in Blodgett Hospital, but the picture postcard affixed within her baby book was merely labeled "Blodgett Memorial Hospital, Grand Rapids, Michigan." I then did a search for Blodgett and discovered this transcription of A Citizen's History of Grand Rapids, Michigan compiled and edited by William J. Etten and published in 1926 by the A. P. Johnson Company (location unknown) on the Kent County, Michigan GenWeb website. This resource told me that construction on the building began in 1914 in East Grand Rapids, verifying that Grandma's birthplace was in that community. The hospital would have been a fairly new building and probably had all the latest medical technology and conveniences. Transcripts of newspaper articles from the Grand Rapids Evening Press announcing the new hospital can be found here.

SOURCE: Ruth Lillian Hoekstra Baby Book. Privately held by Faith Valk Robbins, Colville, Washington. 2008.

So these resources together confirm that my grandmother was born at Blodgett Memorial Hospital in the Village of East Grand Rapids (now the City of East Grand Rapids), Kent County, Michigan. It was fun to discover the location on Google Earth at Latitude 42.9534° and Longitude -85.6236°. I can even see the original brick building surrounded on the south and east by more modern structures!

Other information that was interesting to me on this certificate was that my great-grandfather was listed as a "plater." My grandmother had once mentioned that her father had been a plater in a printing plant, but I wasn't too sure what that occupation entailed. After doing a little hunting, I found some information by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics on Prepress Technicians, which I believe is probably the modern version of the occupation my great-grandfather held: preparing plates of images (photographs, drawings) for printing. He may have learned this trade while a young man, as he writes in the Family Record book he and his wife kept:

[I] went to various schools and graduated from eighth grade in 1908, then started to work in a print shop for $3.00 per week. I was errand boy, swept out the shop, and learned to feed press in my spare time. However I did not stay at the print shop, as the propietor [sic] went bankrupt, I worked at a lot of various jobs. At 24, married Lillian Ferne Strong, who I got acquainted with, while working as a grocery clerk and delivery man.

Birth certificates at that time and place were not created and made available to parents at the time of their children's births, as they are now. The births were recorded in large books, called libers, in the county clerk's office. This particular document is a certified copy of the record that appears in the birth liber; in other words, the deputy clerk carefully copied the information from the birth liber onto certificate paper, then sealed and signed the document attesting to its accurate reproduction. Looking at the date that this certificate was acquired (4 Feb 1943), it appears that my grandmother may have obtained it either as preparation for marrying my grandfather on September 11th of that year, or perhaps to prove citizenship during World War II for job purposes, as I recall she said she worked at a plant that made airplane parts during the war.

My grandmother was the first of three daughters of John and Lillian; all are now deceased. She lived her whole life in Grand Rapids, passing away there on 29 August 2001. Her AnceStory (biography) and some photographs can be found on my website.

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