Birth Certificates 1837-1969

At the top of the certificate will be written the name of the registration district and sub-district and the county or city in which the birth occurred, and also the year.

This is the number (1 -500) of the entry in the register. A scanned certificate will definitely have the correct number, and although it is just possible that a hand written certificate will be wrong, once you have the certificate it is of little importance - who wants to buy a duplicate certificate for family history purposes?

Column 1 - When and Where Born
Lots of scope for error here. I have seen an original register with births recorded on 31st November! Also, because there were financial penalties for late registration it wasn't unknown for some parents to slightly adjust the birth date to avoid having to pay a fine. Apart from family lore he only way of knowing if that was the case was if the true date of birth is recorded in a baptism register, or even if the baptism was before the certificate date of birth.

The place of birth probably is correct, although early registers may only have a village or hamlet name. It is not unknown for babies to arrive very quickly; I have seen "on the way to the female hospital" in an old register. In the early days a lot of babies were born in a workhouse, but after about 1900 teh street address of the institution was used rather than 'workhouse'.

Column 2 - Name if any
The name the parents (or informant) chose for the child, but not necessarily the one he or she used eveyday. It was quite common right through to the early twentieth century to use a family surname as a second given name. Frequently it was the mother's or a grandmother's maiden name.

If that column is blank it's usually an indication that the child died very soo after birth, and there should be a corresponding death registration, often made at the same time as the birth registration.

Column 3 - Sex
Usually quite straightforward - 'boy' or 'girl' although it has been known for mistakes to have been made.

Column 4 - Name and surname of Father
This column should only be completed if the child's parents were married to each other. If this column is blank the mother was not married to the child's father, but it was not unknown, especially in urban areas where the parents were not known personally to the registrar, for inaccurate information to be supplied. In the early days sometimes the father of an illegitimate child was named, and from 1875 it was possible for both parents, who were not married to each other, to be joint informants and the father's name will be entered in this column.

Column 5 - Name surname and maiden surname of mother
An unmarried woman will be shown as Mary Smith. A married woman is shown as Mary Brown formerly Smith but if she had previously been widowed and remarried she will be Mary Brown late Jones formerly Smith. If she has not been married, but is using a different surname (often her partner's) she will be Mary Smith otherwise Green. However, I have certificates where the first married name is given as the maiden surname.

The definition of maiden surname is the surname by which a woman is known at the time of her first marriage. This is not necessarily her birth surname, and a woman who has never been married does not have a maiden name.

Column 6 - Occupation of father
This is whatever the informant said the father's occupation was. If the father had died before the child was born it will include (deceased) after teh occupation. If there is no name in column 4 , this column should be blank also.

Column 7 - Signature, description and residence of the informant
In order of preference, the informant can be:
The mother
The father - but only if he is married to the mother
A person present at the birth - often a female relative
The owner or occupier of an institution - workhouse master or hospital matron
The person in charge of the child - usually sad circumstances where an unmarried mother has died or a foundling child.

The informant signed, ar made a mark, in the original local register. Copy registers which were sent to the Registrar General have the informants' names copied by the local registrar. Thus, the only way you will see an original signature on a certificate is if it is a scan of a local register. GRO certificates and typed or handwritten local certificates do not have original signatures.

If the informant was the mother or father the address will be their usual residence, but if the informant was someone else it will be his/her address and not that of the child and its parents.

Column 8 - When registered
Should be the date the birth was registered, and this will be reflected in the quarterly GRO indexes which are arranged by registration date, not by birth date. At the start of civil registration all births were supposed to be registered within three weeks, and a fine imposed on late registrations up to three months. This was later changed to six weeks and up to a year for late registrations, but it has been known for the date of birth to be 'adjusted' in order to avoid paying the fine!

Since 1928 it has been possible for births of children born to unmarried parents to be re-registered if the parents have subsequently married each other. Re-registration can occur at any time from a few days to many years after the original registration, but after the date there will be written "On the authority of the Registrar General".

Coumn 9 - Signature of registrar
Not particularly relevant to family historians unless he (sometimes she) was your ancestor. If there are two signatures in this column it s either a late registration or a re-registration.

Column 10 - Name entered after registration
This column is usually blank, but if the names given at baptism (or more recently in a naming ceremony) are different to those in column 2 they will be entered here. Sometimes the order of the names is changes, or an additional name given at baptism. The first time I saw an entry in this column was for a child who's father, the informant, was a vicar. Column 2 was blank and I could just imagine his reaction to being asked what the child's Christian name was before she had been baptized!

BMD Certificates
Marriage Certificates
Death Certificates

My collection of certificates with inaccurate information

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