Central registration of births, marriages and deaths began in England and Wales on July 1st 1837, in Scotland on January 1st 1855 and in Ireland on 1st January 1864, although non Catholic marriages had been registered since April 1st 1845.

Birth certificates record

*      date and place of birth (not necessarily the parents’ residence)

*      Registered name of the child

*      Child’s sex

*      Parentage

*      Name and residence of information – usually a parent

Note that the details recorded in the index of births, deaths and marriages are less than on the birth certificate itself. The details may also differ from the certificate.

Christian names may be in the reverse order so William John becomes John William. Names may either be added or dropped, so William John may be entered in the index simply as John, or vice versa. Also names were sometimes altered at the time of baptism.

If you cannot find a birth certificate, there are several possible reasons

Parents may have defaulted on their obligation to register the birth

District registrar may have accidentally omitted to copy the entry into his quarterly returns

There may be a variation in spelling which is obscuring the certificate from your search

The child may have been registered under their mother’s maiden name either because the child was illegitimate or born from an adulterous liaison. Although we think of the Victorian’s in particular as being very censorious of illegitimate births, they were far from infrequent and sometimes simply anticipated a marriage, though the child would probably be registered in their father’s name if that case.

After 1911, the mother’s former name is entered into the index.

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