Monday, June 27, 2005

Lone Star Blunders?

What's Up with the Texas Birth Index?

In a post called Lucy . . . You Got Some 'Splainin' To Do I recounted a rather odd story of parentage. I noted that the information on which the weirdness is based came from the Texas Birth Index maintained by the Texas Department of State Health Services. I accessed the index through, a subscription service. But don't blame the Lucy story [or the following one] on the folks at Ancestry. They have actual, fairly clear images of the Texas index pages with the information exactly as reported. [The Texas Birth Index is available for purchase from the state. A complete set of the microfiche for 1903-1999 costs about $470.00]. After the story below, you'll join me in wondering what's wrong in Austin.

Researching one of my family names, I found that cousin L married P in 1983. According to the Texas Birth Index, L and P had a son, A, in November, 1984. Then, according to the same source, L and P had a daughter, B, in December, 1984! Well, this seems strange, but believe it or not, it's not impossible. While very rare, there are cases of twins being born as much as 56 days apart. [If you want to see a few of the medical studies, Google "delayed interval delivery" For an easier read, see The Straight Dope: Can Twins Be Born A Month or Two Apart? ].

But then, according to the Texas Birth Index, L and P had another daughter, C, exactly eight months after B, the "delayed twin", was born! C'mon! This I couldn't believe. However, out of an abundance of prudence, I consulted a renowned childbirth expert. Her answer: "It would be rare and special," which I took to be a judicious way of saying, "not likely."

The more likely explanation is that we've come across an error [or two] in the Texas Birth Index. So what's going on there?

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