What about Clinton's birth certificate? Bush's? Ford's? Kennedy's?
President Barack Obama released his birth certificate Wednesday to defuse claims he was born on foreign soil.
April 28th, 2011
01:46 PM ET

What about Clinton's birth certificate? Bush's? Ford's? Kennedy's?

The controversy over President Barack Obama’s citizenship sharply divided America before the White House decided to release his long-form birth certificate Wednesday.

Some remain unconvinced he's a U.S. citizen. To many, the issue had already been settled. A CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll last month indicated that three out of four Americans believe Obama was probably or definitely born in the USA. More than 40 percent of Republicans held opposite sentiments.

Often accompanied by accusations of racism, a common cry among those defending Obama is, “Did past presidents make their birth certificates public?”

An interesting question, for sure, so I decided to have a look back over the past 50 years. The short answer is yes, some indeed did. The long answer? Birth certificates for past presidents are squirrelly things and not the easiest to find.

That doesn’t mean they’re not out there hiding on the World Wide Web somewhere, just that I couldn’t find them online over the better part of the morning.

Birth certificates are a state function. The U.S. Census Bureau didn’t begin developing certificates until 1900, and standards weren't conceived until 1902. The responsibility was handed over to the U.S. Public Health Service in 1946 and now resides with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The standard certificates are reviewed every 10 to 15 years, and there have been about a dozen revisions to the standard certificate of live birth. I hate to bore you with birth certificate esoterica, so if you’re interested in a more complete history of our country’s vital records, you can check out this PDF.

For those wondering what a valid birth certificate should contain, the State Department requires that those used for passport applications contain your name, birthplace, birthdate, full parents’ names, a seal from the issuing office, a filing date within one year of your birth and the signature of an “official custodian of birth records.”

With all that in mind, here's a look at the nine presidents before Obama:

John F. Kennedy, born May 29, 1917, in Brookline, Massachusetts

Several people are offering copies of JFK’s birth certificate for sale, but it’s difficult to find an actual image. There's one photo of the King of Camelot’s birth record on eBay, but it’s too small to read.

Lyndon B. Johnson, born August 27, 1908, in Hye, Texas

LBJ’s certificate of birth is online but, oddly, contains no first name. In the "name of child" blank, it says only, “Johnson.” His birthdate, parents’ names and race, however, are consistent with history.

Richard M. Nixon, born January 9, 1913, in Yorba Linda, California

Nixon’s certificate of live birth is online, but the Los Angeles Times reported last year that it was filed in 1942, when Nixon was 29. Interestingly, there was a controversy in 1959 over whether the 37th president was born in his family home or in a local hospital, the Times reported.

Gerald R. Ford, born July 14, 1913, in Omaha, Nebraska

I couldn’t find Ford’s birth certificate online. Numerous sites indicate that Ford was born Leslie Lynch King Jr., named after his father, but his mother remarried in 1916, and the couple began calling him Gerald Rudolff Ford Jr., after her second husband. Ford apparently didn’t make the change official until 1935, when he also adopted the more common spelling of his middle name, Rudolph.

James Carter, born October 1, 1924, in Plains, Georgia

No luck finding the birth certificate of the world’s most-famous peanut farmer, but it seems widely accepted that he was the first president born in a hospital. Please let this in no way be construed as commentary on the 1959 Nixon controversy.

Ronald Reagan, born February 6, 1911, in Tampico, Illinois

Aside from Obama’s as of Wednesday, the Gipper’s birth certificate is the easiest to find. It’s online in a few places, and one blog contains a picture of it hanging in the presidential library. One curious aspect: It's signed 1942, more than three decades after Dutch was born.

George H.W. Bush, born June 12, 1924, in Milton, Massachusetts

Again, no luck, but Obama fans sick of the birther rants may be delighted to know the Internet is rife with conspiracies that the elder Bush was a Nazi spy and the inspiration for the mischievous cartoon monkey Curious George. I’d offer links, but it seems irresponsible to lend these sorts of conspiracies credence.

William J. Clinton, born August 19, 1946, in Hope, Arkansas

Struck out again, though several people claim to have seen it. On an interesting side note, there are conspiracies among astrologists over whether the 42nd president was born at 3:44 a.m. or 8:51 a.m. Apparently, this has horoscopic implications because savvy politicians are “known” to alter their birth data so opponents can’t use the stars against them. There is also a conspiracy about whether Clinton’s real father is named on the birth certificate. For the aforementioned reason regarding Bush I, I will leave you to find links on your own.

George W. Bush, born July 6, 1946, in New Haven, Connecticut

The Texas State Archives claims to have it on file, and The New York Times reports that it's on file at the George Herbert Walker Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas.

So there you have it, a mixed bag. Some presidents have their birth records online; others don’t.

In anticipation of a possible Transcriptgate, I checked around to see whether these same presidents' college grades were available online. I could find only George W. Bush’s Yale transcript.

soundoff (89 Responses)
  1. JohnWilson

    America,America -This country never ceases to amaze the outside world...what a country full of dunces, racists and idiots....The country is going down the drain and instead of offering to fix it, the racists and dunces are kicking around their President's birth certificate !!....China must be laughing..all the way to the bank!!!.

    April 28, 2011 at 11:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • TLS

      I think he is a joke. I do not feel that ANY president has the right to seal any records. Everything should be on the up and up. Sadly our government fails it's citizen's on a daily basis. We act like world police. The only thing that gets me, why are we not doing everything in our power to get along. The world should be in peace. There should not be abused children, abused animals, let's face it first that the world lacks any morals. Children are raising themselves or they are put on pills to make the parents life easier. In the past, we did it the old fashioned way DISCIPLINE. The compass of the family unit is a disgrace. Let us worry about that. That is the biggest thing now, everything else will follow in place. Treat others like you want to be treated. It is a simple thing to do. May God Bless you all.

      May 4, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • TLS

      Sorry I missed 2 things,,,,,,1.) forget Wall Street, get a job instead of protesting. 2.) The Federal Reserve is not federal, it is a sorry excuse for a company, backed but the US government. Do your homework America. All is not well on the homefront, not by a longshot

      May 4, 2012 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
  2. tkb

    Obama promised to pull out troops from Afghanistan and Iraq I think by 2012 when he was campaigning for President. If he's so intelligent he had to know at that time that it was impossible to keep that promise. I don't have a college education and I knew that was impossible. And than why did he send more troops over to Lybia? He's costing this country more money. This is not a way to improve our economy. IF he's so qualified than why is this country going down the drain under his Presidency? Where is the blog that someone is claiming they can do a better job than Obama? It's not a matter of whether or not I can do better. I'm not the one who ran for Presidency, he did, Part of his job as President is to improve our economy, to create more jobs and to reduce our deficit. I'm no genius but even I know that sending more troops to Lybia is not reducing our deficit. Under his administration gas prices have exceeded the prices they were when Bush was President. If he's so qualified why is he doing such a bad job running the country. As far as I know the only campaign promise he kept is to pass health care reform and that turned out to be a nightmare. I'm not on the Obama support wagon. I didn't vote for him and I won't vote for him in 2012.

    April 29, 2011 at 12:11 am | Report abuse |
    • MHS

      Know this is a bit late, but you really didn't listen to candidate Obama. He never promised to bring the troops home from Afghanistan. To the contrary, he stated, repeatedly that Afghanistan is where we should be fighting Al Qaeda and getting Osama bin Laden. Score one big one for that accomplished. And he did end Iraq and he is drawing down the troops in Afghanistan. It was a NATO mission to help with Libya (correct spelling btw) and it was the correct thing to do. So look up what candidate Obama said about Afghanistan, okay? He's not perfect, but he's a lot better choice than Sen. McCain would've been in the recent economic problems. Sen. McCain had no answers at all and had chosen a running mate who knew far less, about almost everything.

      April 18, 2012 at 1:30 am | Report abuse |
  3. angela

    Trump obviously thinks he will be getting votes. Not from me. Trump is an egotistical moron

    April 29, 2011 at 2:16 am | Report abuse |
  4. burnanky

    Plus he won't even talk about auditing the federal reserve. talk about birth certificates for months, but not a peep when it comes to allowing US to audit the fed. Maybe this birth issue really did distract him. Maybe his wife really did want to show off her new dress at the royal wedding. who knows.

    April 29, 2011 at 2:49 am | Report abuse |
  5. MaryJo

    Will Trump & others require to see the marriage license of the "Royal" couple, William & Kate, to see if this is indeed a legal union?

    April 29, 2011 at 9:18 am | Report abuse |
  6. gg

    i think trump should go after macian next

    April 29, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Jim Sibley

    Where is Trump's birth certificate. I heard he was born in Tunisia, was raised in the USSR, and is an avowed vegetarian.

    April 29, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
  8. bobcat2u

    My god. When are you people going to let this rest ???????????? It's time for you to find something else to get stupid about.

    April 29, 2011 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
  9. IKHAN

    Well the rest of the world already thinks that we are stupid so let idiocy reign.

    April 29, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
  10. TomNPitt

    I believe Obama is the second coming of Christ. Just like Jesus he is accused and abused by the masses because he is different. He looks different and talks different. He speaks of peace. He doesn't make wild accusations filled with inuendo and falsehoods. He truly is a man like Ghandl and Pope John Paul. If he were Catholic we would be talking Saint-Hood. But because he's partially black, Christians accuse him of just being from the hood. He is superior to you – face it and accept it. He is your salvation. The Republicans can't find anyone who is speaking to the American people who are involved with the struggle everyday, They're only concerned with the whackos carying guns talking of another Civil War. this will not work nor will it help any of us. The Corporatists want us to battle against each other while they take all of our money and push us into forced labor. Accept it – Obama is the way. He's the only way to salvation!!

    April 30, 2011 at 10:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Try again

      If you think Obama is our salvation than you better put your head between your legs and kiss your ass good-bye. I will pray for you.

      May 1, 2011 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Cesar

    Not Guilty!

    April 30, 2011 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Sunshine Girl *

    @Peterg...I would say b/c of science/genetics. Dark genes dominate. For example-2 people decide to have a baby. She is white/blonde/blue/fair skin. He is white/brunette/brown/tan skin. Baby will probably be white/brunette/brown/tan skin 90% of the time. Now theres always exceptions to the rules. Nothing is 100% accurate. So in Obamas case his fathers genetics dominated and he is black/black/brown regardless of what his mother is. Thats my explanation. But theres always someone to turn it racists Im sure.

    April 30, 2011 at 9:58 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jacoby Nixon

    I'm sorry but Clinton never demanded full reign to tap my phone communications and email without warrants and completely invade my privacy and destroy my 4th Amendment rights. If he's demanding that from me, it's only right that he leads by example and expose all his records. He's about to sign the unpatriotic Orwellian NewSpeak Patriotic Act and he should not be exempt from it!

    May 25, 2011 at 12:14 am | Report abuse |
  14. mystylplx

    This article isn't entirely honest. I think what we are talking about here are Presidents who released their birth certificates either while still running for office, or at least during their term in office. The examples given above either come from Presidential libraries or from public records from AFTER the President in question was dead. Not one of those Presidents mentioned released their birth certificates to the public either BEFORE or DURING their time in office. If the writer had bothered to do better research s/he would have found that Eisenhower was the last President before Obama to release his birth certificate BEFORE leaving office.

    September 14, 2011 at 9:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Twinx

      That's a very good point, and exactly the same point is true for college transcripts.

      Birthers are constantly informing me that President Obama is the ONLY President who hasn't released his college transript/s but having searched back 60 years I'lm unable to locate a single example of a previous President doing so (either during their candidacy or term of Office).

      April 28, 2012 at 9:23 am | Report abuse |
  15. Twinx

    Oh, and to save our birther bretheren some time, 'leaks' don't count.

    President Bush, Al Gore, John Kerry and Rick Perry's transcripts were all LEAKED, not released by the individual or anyone acting for them.

    None of them waived their right to proivacy and voluntarily stumped up their trascript/s.

    April 28, 2012 at 9:27 am | Report abuse |
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