Civil RegistrationA basic guide Amanda Worthy Ruth Cammies 15th September 2006
Civil Registration • Civil registration refers to when certain life events, including birth, marriage and death, are recorded by the state. • In England and Wales, Scotland and Ireland, civil registration for these life events started from different dates.
Registration Quarters • The indexes to the registers are quarterly rather than annually - the four quarters being known as March, June, September and December. Each of these covers the month itself and the two preceding months, as follows: • January, February, March registrations in the March quarter • April, May, June registrations in the June quarter • July, August, September registrations in the September quarter • October, November, December registrations in the December quarter
What information can you find on birth records? England and Wales: • Child’s forenames • Sex • Date of birth • Place of birth (including address) • Mother’s full name and maiden name • Father’s full name and occupation (if married to the mother) • Name, address and relationship to the child of the person who registered the birth In Scotland, the following additional information might be given: • Time of birth • Date and place of parents’ marriage
What information can you find on marriage records? England and Wales • Date of marriage • Place of marriage • Whether by banns, licence or certificate • Name and age of bride and groom • Occupations of bride and groom • Marital status of bride and groom • Current address of bride and groom • Names and occupations of the fathers of the bride and groom • Names of witnesses
In Scotland the following additional information might be given: • Mother’s name and maiden name • For regular marriage – name of officiating minister (or registrar from 1940) • For irregular marriages – date on conviction (to 1939), decree of declarator or Sherriff’s warrant
What information can you find on death records? England and Wales • Full name of the deceased • Date of death • Place of death • Given age • Cause of death • Occupation (or name and occupation of the husband/father if the deceased was a married or widowed woman/child) • Name, address and family relationship (if any) of the person who reported the death
In Scotland the following additional information might be given: • Marital status • Spouse’s name • Sex • Father’s name and rank or profession • Mother’s name and maiden name
Where to find BMD records • You cannot view birth, marriage or death certificates online or at local record offices, they must be ordered from the General Register Office, either by post or online. • Certificates are significantly cheaper if you provide the Register Office with some basic details about the certificate you require, referred to as the ‘GRO index’. You can get this information from a number of places.
1. FreeBMD • http://freebmd.rootsweb.com/ • FreeBMD is a large database of the indexes of births, marriages and deaths in England and Wales. It has not yet been completed, so some of the people you are looking for may not have yet been added to the list. • After a basic search on FreeBMD you may get a list of people with the surname you have entered. If you look at one of these entries, it gives the following details:
The name, year and quarter, district, volume number and page number are the details you need to include on the application for a certificate. In many cases, FreeBMD have also made an image of the original index available to download free of charge.
2. 1837.online • http://www.1837online.com • 1837online claim to have a complete online database of all births, marriages and deaths in England and Wales from 1837-2004. • For a charge, you can fully search the database and order a certificate.
3. Ancestry.co.uk http://www.ancestry.co.uk Ancestry also offer access to the complete database of births, marriages and deaths for a charge.
Tips for searching the BMD indexes Births • Always search the quarter following the approximate birth. The legal registration of a birth is required within 42 days so could occur in the following quarter. After that a fine could be issued – it is worth checking the next couple of quarters if you still cannot locate the birth. • If a relative has given you the DOB of a deceased relative (e.g. 25 December 1915) and you cannot find the person in the indexes it is worth searching the same quarter in adjacent years (e.g. 1913-1917) because people tend to remember birthdays but get confused about the year of birth. • If you are trying to work back a generation to discover a mother’s maiden name from an ancestor’s birth certificate but are having problems locating the certificate because of your ancestor’s common name (e.g. John Thomas), then search the indexes for a sibling with a more unusual name (e.g. Elias Thomas). There is more chance that you will order a correct certificate. N.B. Look on the census for siblings and approximate ages.
Marriages • The indexes record each marriage under the names of both bride and groom, so for every one marriage there will be two entries in the indexes. • From March 1912 the spouse's name was recorded on the indexes so, if you know both names, the correct entry should be immediately identifiable. Before that date, where you know both names you will need to cross-reference any candidate entries against the other surname to see if there is a match. • You are looking for a name match first and foremost but need to verify this against the registration district, volume and page number, which will always be identical. • It is sensible to search under the more distinctive of the two names, unless you believe that this surname is at serious risk of being mis-spelt or being subject to spelling variation.
Deaths • A death should be registered within 5 days but again late registration can occur as a result of e.g. an inquest. • Deaths are registered in the district the death occurs not necessarily where the deceased was buried or lived.
Explaining unusual things that come up on birth certificates • No father listed (illegitimacy) • Informants - the informant of a birth was usually the mother. The father, if married to the mother, could also be the informant. • Anyone present at the birth such as a female relative, or the midwife could act as informant. • The owner or 'occupier' of the house or institution where the birth took place could also register the birth. • Names can change, i.e. a child may be registered as ‘male’ or ‘female’ or be given additional names later when baptised. • All the mother’s previous names may be given (i.e. maiden, previous married name)
Explaining unusual things that come up on marriage certificates • ‘Of full age’ (means over 21) • Ages may be wrong (i.e. bride may give her age as 21 as she did not need her parents’ consent to marry) • Father may be recorded as ‘deceased’, but if father is not listed as deceased it does not necessarily mean he was alive at the time of the marriage. Don’t assume! • Marital status of couple is given, e.g. widow, widower. But do treat with caution – remember bigamy can occur!
Explaining unusual things that come up on death certificates: • Where there was an inquest – check local newspapers for coverage
Causes of death – commonly used terms on 19th century death certificates • Decay • Wasting • ‘Old age’ • Phthisis (tuberculosis, consumption, TB) • Syncope (sudden loss of consciousness) • The genealogist's resource for interpreting causes of death: http://www.antiquusmorbus.com/