From the Ancestry Daily News
  Michael John Neill   3/16/2005

Separating Delayed Twins

This week, we go "beyond the index" in looking at three Chicago, Illinois, area birth certificates. This is an excellent example of where stopping at the index is a big mistake. The records analyzed this week can be viewed at

Our focus is on the children of William and Mary Apgar who married in Chicago in 1909. Their four children were all born in the Chicago area in the 1910s. Census, home sources, obituaries, and funeral cards provided the same names and relatively consistent years of birth for Lillian, Elizabeth, Anna and Louis. A search of the Cook County Birth Index for 1871 to 1916 (available from the Family History Library or through Family History Centers -- ) indicated the following entries:

  • Lillian Apgar, born 2 March 1910
  • Elizabeth Apgar, born 2 March 1910
  • Louis Apgar, born 22 Nov 1914

Twins were news to me. Anna could not be located despite a prolonged series of searches using creative renderings of Apgar. Obtaining the original certificates was next on my list, hoping they would answer my questions. Unfortunately an initial reading of the certificates did nothing to alleviate my confusion.

Lillian's certificate (filed on 3 March 1931) indicates she was born on 2 March 1910. Elizabeth's certificate (filed on 5 March 1931) indicates she was born on 2 March 1910. The mother, Mary Apgar, is listed as the informant on both these records. The birth certificate for Louis was filed on 27 November 1914, five days after his birth on 22 November 1914.

  • Lillian is indicated as being Mary's first child.
  • Elizabeth is indicated as being Mary's second child.
  • Louis is indicated as being Mary's fourth child.

Even though there was no certificate for Anna, she still fits in as the third child. At least the information provided on the certificates did not preclude the existence of an additional child, Anna.

The certificates raised several questions, which, like many genealogy problems, are intertwined and difficult to analyze separately.

  • Why delayed certificates for only two girls?
  • Why were the delayed certificates filed when they were?
  • Are the girls really twins?

Delayed Registration?
The certificates for the "twins" were actually delayed certificates, although they were not recorded on a special form usually used for such filings. In many areas, delayed certificates will be filed separately from those that were recorded promptly and these delayed recordings may even have their own separate index.

The delayed certificate for the oldest child, Lillian is filed the day after her twenty-first birthday. This would have been the age at which Lillian became "of age." Perhaps the certificate was recorded to give Lillian proof of her age. The mother might have realized that Elizabeth also would need a certificate and so filed one for her shortly after Lillian's was recorded.

But Why None for Anna?
A potential reason for Lillian and Elizabeth's certificate still does not answer the question of why Anna does not have birth certificate. I am not certain but a probable reason is that by March of 1931, Anna was already married and was almost a mother herself. Perhaps Mary did not see any reason for recording a certificate for Anna at that time. The two older daughters were not married as of March 1931.

Are They Twins?
The two birth certificates are the only records indicating that Lillian and Elizabeth share a date of birth. However, there is no notation on either certificate indicating the births resulted in multiple children and it seems reasonable that the date on Elizabeth's certificate is an error. Several relatively contemporary sources, including the 1910, 1920, and 1930 censuses, and the 1921 divorce of William and Mary Apgar indicate all four children were different ages.

Primary or Secondary?
Another consideration in the analysis of any record is the determination of whether the information provided is primary or secondary in nature. A document is considered a primary source for an event if it is recorded relatively close to the time of the event by a person who would reasonably have had first hand knowledge of the event.

Mary would have been a primary witness to the births of all her own children. The one concern in this case is that the birth records of the two oldest girls were recorded twenty years after the event. Given this time lapse, it is easy to see how a mistake could occur.

On the birth certificates of the two oldest daughters, father William is 22 years of age. Mary is listed as 15 on Lillian's certificate and 16 on Elizabeth's. By 1931, Mary and William had been divorced for ten years and he had been out of the picture for some time. Mary's age on the certificates is consistent with her known year of birth and the year of birth for Lillian and Elizabeth from other records. Obviously if the girls were born on the same date, the mother's age should be the same on both certificates.

Classifying a record as primary does not mean it is always accurate. Sources that are primary can be inaccurate and sources that are not primary can be accurate.

Louis' birth certificate is filed in close proximity to his date of birth and could easily be classified as a primary source for his date and place of birth and the name of his parents. The place of birth is listed as 10057 State Street, also the residence of the mother. Other contemporary records on the family also indicate that they lived at this address. The attendant is listed as Mrs. McCasland (likely Elsie McCasland, sister of Mary Apgar). Not only is Louis the fourth child, but all four children are living after his birth, additional evidence to the existence of Anna.

Where is the Third Child?
Anna's birth information was eventually located in the christening records of a nearby Roman Catholic Church. Her record was obtained by learning what churches were in the family's neighborhood and searching those records for the appropriate time period. That record provided the correct parents' names and a date of birth consistent with her being the third child of the couple.

  • Lessons from this case that are worth remembering:
  • Indexes are a beginning, not an end.
  • Vital records can be wrong.
  • Errors can be accidental.
  • Some events never get recorded.

Michael John Neill is the Course I Coordinator at the Genealogical Institute of Mid America (GIMA) held annually in Springfield, Illinois, and is also on the faculty of Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg, Illinois. Michael is the Web columnist for the FGS FORUM and is on the editorial board of the Illinois State Genealogical Society Quarterly. He conducts seminars and lectures on a wide variety of genealogical and computer topics and contributes to several genealogical publications, including Ancestry Magazine and Genealogical Computing. You can e-mail him at or visit his website at, but he regrets that he is unable to assist with personal research.

Copyright 2005, Used by the author on his website with permission

Michael John Neill's other genealogy how to articles