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Genealogical Myths

 

1 : It is not possible to browse civil registers at a registrar’s office

False, public browsing of civil registers held at the local registrar’s office has been enshrined in law from 1836.

See here—

1835 Act

And

Searches at Registr's Office

2 : Births and Deaths were not recorded until 1837

False, The correct answer is - 1644.

If one is thinking when did the first fine for not registering a birth the answer is 1694 when a £100 fine was imposed on any clergyman who did not keep a register of all persons married, buried, christened or born in his parish.

In 1696 registers (distinct for baptism registers) were to be kept of children born in the parish and not christened all parents were required to give notice of a birth of a child within 5 days of the birth. A fine of 40 shillings was imposed on parents who omitted to give notice within the five days and a similar penalty was payable by the vicar. The parents were to pay the vicar sixpence to register the birth.

See here—

1696 Act

There were also various other Acts of parliament requiring births and deaths be registered to enable taxes to be collected.

3 : Stillbirths were not registered until 1927

False, burials of stillborn infants have been registered since the conception of parish registers.

5 : Birth, Marriage and Burial certificates were only obtainable from 1837

False, civil registration started in 1837 and the standardised form of certificate began then. It was however possible to obtain printed birth certificate forms that were filled in (as is the practice with civil registration) before 1837.

See examples—

Birth—
Examples of birth certificates

Marriage—
Examples of marriage certificates

Burial—
Examples of burial certificates

6 : Still born infants could not be buried in consecrated ground.

False, not only do parish regisers contain numerous entries of stillborns being buried in the churchyard, there are also many examples of stillborns being buried in the church itself.

7 : Burials of still-births cannot be traced.

False, burial registers often given detailed location of the burial place of the bodies of stillborn infants. Grave or lair registers may also be used.

8 : Civil Registers were not recorded to aid family history.

False, civil registers like Parochial registers before them were initiated in part to enable individuals to prove the hereditary rights in law. Such proof requires the ability to trace a person’s lineage.
As the Solicitor General said in 1833 – “It was more easy to trace a pedigree 500 years ago than five years”.
Select Committee on Parochial Registration in 1833

9 : There was a charge made for Baptism.

False, this is one of those half truths that often occur. Baptism is a sacrement and as such sin of simony would be committed to charge to baptism a person.
However, it is true to say some parishes did make a charge for the parish clerk to register the baptism in the register and sometimes this fee was given to the incumbent.