Saturday, January 5, 2008

Exceptional document

In my genealogical research over the last quarter of a century, I've collected all kinds of so-called BDM certificates [births, deaths and marriages], but I had never before seen anything quite as exotic as the latest version of my Australian birth certificate, in the form requested by French authorities for my naturalization application. And, if I introduce such a subject into my blog, it's because I've always been fascinated by records, archives, genealogical documents and all the official human stuff intended to inform us who we are, where we come from, and—maybe, as an afterthought—what we've all been doing during our brief stay on the planet Earth.

In concrete terms, there is now a second sheet of paper, supplied by the Sydney office of the federal department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, referred to as an apostille, attached to the old certificate by means of a green ribbon. And, on both sides of this second sheet of paper, there's a red seal. The following image shows how they've punched a hole in one corner of the old certificate, and run the folded green ribbon through this hole:

Here's a fragment of the attached sheet, the apostille, showing a seal and the signed stamp of the authorities:

On the reverse side of the apostille, as seen in the following image [which is greatly reduced so that I can fit it into my blog], the two extremities of the green ribbon holding the two sheets of paper together are glued onto the apostille by means of a second seal:

The raison d'être of all this elaborate craftsmanship is, of course, to discourage forgers. If somebody attempted to undo the ribbon so that the apostille could then be attached to a fake birth certificate, observers would normally detect traces of the subterfuge.

In fact, it took me no more than a minute to imagine an elementary technique for the delicate removal of the original certificate, and the subsequent attachment of the apostille to a fake birth certificate concerning another individual, maybe even a fictitious personage. No, I don't intend to explain my discovery here and now, because one never knows if it might be useful, one day, to have the details of such a secret technique tucked away in a corner of one's mind. Let me put it another way. For the moment, while my modest financial resources enable me to lead a simple but pleasant existence, I don't intend to try to make a fortune by getting involved in the international forgery business.

Seriously, with today's computers and instant communication possibilities, wouldn't you think that the authorities of advanced nations such as France and Australia would have moved beyond the stage of depending upon quaint old-fashioned stuff such as pretty green ribbons and red seals [for which I've been obliged to pay a non-negligible sum of money, along with a certain waste of time and effort] to confirm that a poor inoffensive bastard named William Skyvington was indeed born in Australia 67 years ago?

Let me conclude on a positive note. As I explained yesterday in Children's itinerary [display], I had to drive along treacherous mountainous roads in order to post off my green ribbon and red seals to the naturalization authorities, who happen to be located in the Atlantic city of Nantes. Well, there's a fabulous French system called Chronopost [which isn't exactly cheap] that enables you to use the Internet to follow the transport of your package as it crosses France... or indeed the planet. Here's what I learned today:

Once my green ribbon and red seals had crossed the Vercors mountains in my old Citroën, they were deposited in the fabulous cheese town of St-Marcellin [it's the cheese, not the town, that's fabulous] and then conveyed to Grenoble, where their presence was recorded at 19:23 yesterday evening. By 05:13 this morning, the ribbon and seals were in Nantes... but they won't actually be delivered into the hands of my friendly naturalization lady named Cécile Guillas [even red tape is a highly personalized affair here in France] until Monday morning. The only thing that worries me now is that Cécile, in using a pair of scissors to extract my lovely birth certificate from its protective plastic envelopes, might inadvertently damage (cut) that lovely green ribbon or the equally lovely red circular seals, which would be a great pity. I'm attached to that document... like an apostille.

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