1st marks the 178th anniversary of the introduction of the National Registration of Births, Marriages and
Deaths in 1837. This first article will be covering Birth Certificates,
where I will be using examples of people from Swansea to give some colour and add some meat to the bones.
let’s go back to the year of 1837, and paint a picture of what was happening nationally. Poor King William
IV died of a heart attack on June 20th at Windsor, with the crown passing to his niece, Victoria. The Prime
Minister was Lord Melbourne of
the Whig party.
home, Swansea’s population had risen from 6,000 in 1801 to 17,000 in 1851. Swansea can boast of the first newspaper, The Cambrian, which was
published in Wales, 1804. A good read!
Before 1837 baptisms, marriages and burials were recorded in parish registers. At this time, there were only two churches within the Swansea area, St John-juxta-Swansea, Hafod – with registers
starting in 1797 and St Mary – with registers starting a little earlier in 1631. Over time more churches were established within Swansea. All the parish registers can be found in Swansea Archives
Services, Civic Centre.
General Register Office (GRO) for England and Wales was founded in 1836 by the Births and Deaths
Registration Act, 1836 and full civil registration commenced in 1837. The reason for the formation of the GRO was the poor state of the parish registers.
kicked off on July 1st, with the GRO established in Somerset House, London. During the early years, until 1875, it was not com-pulsory to register a birth. Pictured is an
example of this, baptism entry from St. Marys, 1837.
Vivian was born August 9th 1837, yet there doesn’t appear to be a birth certificate,
though we can see that she was baptised on September 11th. The entry tells us that her father, John Henry Vivian, is MP
for the new constituency of Swansea. We will come back to Henrietta; who has an
interesting record at a later date.
the other hand some children weren't baptised at all. There were two kinds of birth certificate, a short version, with just only the baby's details, and a full
version with parent's details. An example of this is pictured showing the birth certificate, of Martha Vaughan, which was the 12th certificate to be
produced at Swansea. A birth had to be registered with 42 days either at the district officer, Superintendent Registrar, Mr Charles Collins, 5 Fisher
Street or sub-dsitrct officer, Registrar of Swansea District, Mr John Oakshot, 14 High Street
Registration could be under-taken by either father or mother, and if this wasn’t carried out there was a fine of 4d.
I purchased this birth certificate
from the register office at the Civic Centre I didn’t know what to expect. The information from it has shed some more interesting information.
Date and place of birth
later the certificate the fuller the address is. In our example, surprising July 1st 1837
Forenames and surname of the child at the time of the birth. If there is a
line through this column, then there is no name. In our example, Martha Vaughan
absence of the father’s name may mean that the baby is illegiti-mate. Before 1875 a woman could name any man as the father. In our example, George Vaughan
Name and maiden name of mother
extra bit of information will help to track down the mother’s own parents, as well as the marriage of the parents themselves. In our example Mary Evans
Occupation of the father
is another useful piece of information for confirming that the certificate is the correct one for the family. In our example game keeper and victualler
Signature, description and residence information
usually one of the parents, but it could have been a grandparent or another relative.
Registration usually took place within 42 days. In our example, 31 days
Signature of registrar
Names entered after registration
to record any other names given to the child