Daily Archives: 29 September, 2009

Family History #6 – Birth, Marriage and Death Certificates

part of a Birth Certificate

part of a Birth Certificate

After the Civil Registration act in 1837, it became law to officially register every birth, marriage and death in the United Kingdom. As a result, it became much easier to track how many people were being born, where, how many people were dying, and so forth. Hundreds of years later, the hatch match and dispatch records are invaluable for doing your family tree.

Every birth, adoption, marriage, civil partnership or death registered in England or Wales has a General Register Office (GRO) index reference number. It usually consists of the year, volume number, page number and district in which the event was registered. For example, my great-grandparents marriage certificate in Portsmouth in 1917 has the reference ’1917, 2b, 865, Portsmouth’.

You can find a certificate even if you are not completely sure when an event took place. As long as you know which quarter it happened in, this makes things much easier, as you can search the BMD indexes, at sites such as FreeBMD and Ancestry. The indexes are also available to search in many local librarys and archives. From 1837 to 1984 the index information for each year is divided into quarters. The quarters are split as follows:

* March quarter – events registered in January, February and March
* June quarter – April, May and June
* September quarter – July, August and September
* December quarter – October, November and December

The earliest index is for September quarter 1837. After 1984 the indexes are organised by year only.

Once you have an index number, you can apply for a copy certificate from either the General Register Office in London, or the local Register office where the event took place. There is normally a charge for this, depending on what exactly it is you want, and how long it takes the staff to search for the original entry.

The make up of the certificates and the information that they contain has changed slightly over time, but most of the common features remain.

Birth certificates -these are normally red – tell you when and where the birth took place, the name of the child, gender, full name of father (if known or entered, of course!), full name and maiden name of mother, occupation of father, details of the informant, when registered and the name of the registrar.

Marriage certificates – these are usually in the green – tell you when the marriage took place, the full names of the husband and wife, their ages and conditions, rank or profession, residence at time of marriage, fathers surname and profession. Interestingly, it also tells you what parish the marriage took place in, if it was in the rites of any chuch or religion, and the minister who officiated.

Death certificates – suitable in black – tell you when and where someone died, the deceased’s name, gender, age, occupation, cause of death, signature description and residence of the informant, when registered, and a signature of the registrar.

So you can see how for every certificate you manage to get hold of, it will give you a step backwards to the next generation. That way, used alongside the census returns, you can trace your family back one step at a time.

Not only do certificates give you an idea of names, dates, places, but they give you a lot more social information too, that colours what is otherwise a very impersonal family tree. You can find out about the jobs that your ancestors did, how they migrated and moved around the country, any illnesses that they might have had, and what religion they were. So something that could be just any other family history suddenly becomes very personal to you.

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£13m for UK’s Heritage

The Heritage Lottery Fund today announced £13m worth of grants for four Heritage projects around the UK.

Bletchley Park in Milton Keynes is the historic site of secret British code breaking activities during World War Two and birthplace of the modern computer. It has been awarded HLF development funding of £460,500 towards a further potential application of £4.1million. Proposals include: repairing key buildings to highlight the crucial part the site played in the World War Two code breaking story; improving visitor facilities; and expanding the site’s educational programmes.

HLF’s £3.3million grant will fund the transformation of the redundant 19th-century All Souls Church in Bolton into a state-of-the-art facility providing training, education, youth activities, health and welfare services to the local community. Plans include taking out the existing pews and replacing them with a community centre, made up of two ‘pods’ that will sit within the church building.

The National Maritime Museum in Greenwich will also benefit. Thanks to HLF’s £5million grant, an elegant and inviting entrance will be created directly from Greenwich Park and much more of the collection and archive will be displayed in the new library, archive facilities and special exhibitions gallery.

The Vindolanda Trust has some of the most important collections of ‘real life’ from the Roman world. Their museums are situated on the extensive remains of two Roman forts and civilian settlements on Hadrian’s Wall – England’s largest World Heritage Site. The HLF’s £4million grant will link the two sites and the proposed new gallery space and education centre have been designed to inspire the next generation of young archaeologists. A significant element of Vindolanda’s collection currently in storage will be on show for the first time.

Stowe Landscape Gardens in Buckinghamshire was created by some of the 18th century’s leading architects, sculptors and gardeners, including Capability Brown, John Vanbrugh and William Kent. Thanks to a grant of £1.5million, the original entrance to the Garden will be reinstated. By transforming the visitor experience, people will enjoy a greater understanding of what it would have been like to visit Stowe in its heyday.

Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) sustains and transforms a wide range of heritage for present and future generations to take part in, learn from and enjoy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, we invest in every part of our diverse heritage. HLF has supported more than 28,800 projects, allocating over £4.3billion across the UK.

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