In all the packages I offer I’m always saying you get certificates but what does this mean and what information do they contain?
First a little history. The certificate system for births marriages and deaths began in July 1837. These certificates gave much more information including the newly developed registration districts. These districts were formed by splitting up the country into areas so that when events were recorded they could be registered at a central location rather than just at the church. These districts are still used today as is the format of the certificates, although they have added more information over the years. Prior to this the only records of a person’s life would have been found in the parish register in the form of baptisms, marriages and burials. These, in the case of baptisms and burials may not have included the date the person was born or died. Also in the case of a marriage record very little information was included.
So let’s look at each one in turn starting with a birth certificate.
As you can see it shows the date and place of birth, the child’s name and sex, the father’s name and mother’s name including maiden name, the father’s occupation and the person who registered the birth and the date of registering. Now this gives loads more information. On a baptism record, if you are lucky, you get the date of baptism, the name of the child, the forenames of the parents, the father’s occupation and the abode which was usually just the village or area of a town. Now you get an address, date of birth and the mother’s maiden surname. How does this help? Well now you have an exact date of birth which can be used to tie in with other records. So for example if you find a military record you can use the date of birth to confirm it is the correct person. It’s also great if searching the 1939 register as a person’s date of birth is given so it can help prove it is the correct individual. You also have the mother’s maiden surname. Now this opens up some doors. If you’ve got this you can use the name to help find the marriage of the child’s parents. Also after September 1911 on the BMD (birth, marriage and death) list you can search for children also using the mother’s maiden surname so it can help find more children for a couple.
Now on to marriage certificates. On the church marriage records at most you got the date of the event and location, the couples name and residence (usually the parish they lived in), the witness name and a signature (or not if they signed with an X), and occasionally an age and father’s name . On the new certificate you also got the occupations of the couple, the father’s names and occupations.
In reality, if you can find the marriage record in the parish record you may get lucky and not need to get a marriage certificate as you will have enough information, but alas this is not always the case.
Finally the death certificate. In the burial records you usually get the person’s name, age, residence (the parish, village or area of a town) and the burial date. In some cases you may also get the burial plot number as well.
Now on the death certificate you get the date of death, the person’s occupation, the cause of death and the name of the person who registered the death. This is not vital information in tracing a person’s genealogy but it is helpful in some ways. The occupation can be cross referenced with the known information of the person and the name of the informant of the death can be used to tie in to known family members. This is especially helpful when tracing a child’s death as it is usually one of their parents who register the death. Also the cause of death can be very informative it trying to trace a hereditary condition.
So overall the old system was good but the new system is so much better, but then in the pre 1837 era did they ever think we’d be tracing our ancestors?