I’ve written about the first of my essential trio of Family History documents, the Death certificate, and now it’s the turn of the Birth certificate.
The example I’m going to use is for my 2x Great Uncle, Reginald Charles Stratton:
The first way in which a birth certificate is useful is in actually confirming that the birth you’re after took place, in this case he was born in Poulner, Ringwood in 1882. If you’re looking at the date/place column, incidentally, you’ll see Reginald was born in ‘Poulner, Ringwood R.S.D’. This stands for Rural Sub-District which would have been a collection of villages all lumped together for registration purposes. These have changed a lot over the years, so if you find yourself stumped with a birth it’s handy to try and work out which registration district it is likely to fall under now.
Next come the forenames of the child, the sex, then the father’s name. If you’re working backwards up the tree then this field is invaluable to you. There are a number of family members for whom I’ve not had any parental information, but have gained it from birth certificates.
The Mother’s name and maiden name field are also invaluable as, if you are hoping to trace the female line too, it gives you a maiden name for the mother with which you can, hopefully narrow down a marriage certificate, or census entry.
The father’s occupation is recorded next, in this case a Gardener. I’ve followed Jesse Stratten over a number of birth and marriage certificates and censuses and, while he is always in an occupation involved with working on the land, he has variously been a Gardener, Agricultural Labourer, Farmer and other things besides. Birth certificates that fall between census years are good in this way as they can fill you in as to what your relative was doing at that time. Notice though that there’s no field for occupation of the mother, as there is on current birth registrations – obviously in 1882 the mother would either not have an occupation, or have a menial job that wouldn’t seem important to add!
The final fields are the date of registration (it has to be within 6 weeks of the birth by law these days) and the signature of the registrar.
There you have it. It’s in general, a very simple document, but can contain a wealth of knowledge to further your search.