TN 20 (01-04)
GN 00302.056 Religious Record of Age
A religious record of age is a document issued by a religious authority on which is entered the claimant's DB.
A religious record of age is preferred evidence only if it was established before age 5.
Follow the instructions in GN 00302.057 and GN 00302.058 to determine the availability of birth records from U.S. states and foreign countries and whether to ask the claimant to obtain his/her religious record of age. See GN 00307.190 for instructions about the acceptability of foreign evidence and whether to request it.
NOTE: A souvenir (or keepsake, ornate, ceremonial, complimentary, goodwill, memento, heirloom, or other alternative) certificate is NOT acceptable as preferred evidence of age. See GN 00302.052B. for the policy about when you must obtain preferred evidence of age. See GN 00302.056D. and GN 00301.050D. for instructions about souvenir and other alternative certificates.
C. Procedure - Who Must Certify
Religious records must be certified by the custodian of these records in his/her official capacity, or by an SSA employee. The custodian must indicate his/her official status by the use of the organization’s letterhead or seal or his/her own seal of office. He/she must identify the organization and his/her relationship to the records. Do not develop the date of recordation unless there is doubt about the record’s authenticity.
See GN 00301.035 for instructions about accepting certifications of evidence from other government or state agencies.
D. Procedure - Acceptability of Religious Records
Accept properly certified religious records as preferred evidence for claims purposes or alternative evidence for enumeration.
The FO should, however, at its own discretion, and based on its own experience, question the validity of certain records.
1. Factors That Could Raise a Question
Factors that could raise a question include:
Entries that have apparently been altered;
Entries that were apparently added at a later date (shown by the use of a different typewriter, ink, and/or handwriting).
2. Document’s Validity is Questionable
If a document’s validity is questionable, do whichever of the following is most expeditious:
Verify the record with the religious authority by telephone (through the parallel FO when appropriate) and document the folder and/or SS-5 to show that the record was verified; or
Have the claimant request proof of age from the custodian of the record; or
Obtain other evidence of age.
The FO should also question records that appear to have been issued blank or partially completed (souvenir certificates). See GN 00301.050D.3. for instructions about these documents.
If you are unsure whether a religious record is a souvenir (or other alternative) certificate or a properly certified religious record, evaluate it using the guidelines in GN 00301.050D.3.
A baptismal certificate is a religious record of age.
Cradle rolls and naming certificates are also examples of religious records.
A Bris certificate is a religious record for purposes of this section.