Scavenger Hunt

certificates and paperwork  

Have you ever participated in a scavenger hunt? You get a list of unlikely things to collect and usually there are some obstacles in place that make the hunt a bit more challenging. That's what we've been doing lately, only it's family records that happen to be the unusual items we're trying to collect.

Marcie's mum is entitled to some veteran's benefits and in order to apply we had to 1) locate and download a ream of government forms (okay, half a ream) and the directions (which we've since found are incorrect); 2) complete the forms (in black ink only; printed, no cursive); and 3) provide all sorts of back-up information, certified documents and official certificates. We realize that they don't want people collecting benefits that they're not entitled to, but really. Do they expect octogenarians to figure all this out and complete the process?

Our hunt has taken us to my home town of Leicester, Massachusetts to get a certified copy of my dad's death certificate from nearly 40 years ago even though he has nothing to do with the benefits my mom will be receiving. Granted, I could have done this on-line, but in the interest of time, it made more sense to drive there and pick it up. It also required us to drive to Concord, New Hampshire to get a copy of my step-dad's 1946 Honorable Discharge paperwork certified. This could not be done on-line and needed to be completed on a restricted Army National Guard Base at the Adjutant General's office. The stamps are very colorful and official looking.

We headed to Conway, New Hampshire to get a death certificate for my step-dad's first wife who died in the 1980's. Though Archie had been part of the family for nearly 20 years, we didn't know his ex-wife's name, date of death or where she died. This required getting temporary memberships to several on-line “trace your heritage” type sites to track down the information after which we found that because of an unusual state law, you cannot get a copy of a death certificate in New Hampshire unless you're a relative and you can't do it on-line. After much to-do and producing a Power of Attorney, my mom's driver's license, a letter signed by her authorizing me to get the certificate for her and my driver's license, I was told that the woman died in a different town and we needed to go there … on the other side of the state! We drove from Conway to Hanover and after doing the same dance routine, I was able to obtain what I needed … for $15.

I found out recently that I could have paid one of several companies between $900 and $2,000 to complete these forms for me. This would be tempting.

Just in case you were wondering, we were not required to get a Papal Imprimatur nor a Presidential Seal and for that, we are thankful … though the trip to Rome might have been an adventure and we could have visited Brennan and Hannah in D.C.