Official records are ubiquitous in American life. Even before a birth certificate is issued for a child, medical professionals create an ultrasound image. The family regards that image as sublime, but the doctor scutinizes it in a different way. When a child is older, the birth certificate is what the school wants to see. Later in life, many other documents will be generated: a driver's license and car insurance, employment and tax records, financial documents associated with buying a home, passports for travel, and then a last will and testament, followed by a death certificate. Coping with documents throughout the life-course can be frustrating, but trying to live without them invites its own kind of trouble.

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