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The Historic Stillbirth Register
The Historic Stillbirth Register currently contains over 10,000 stillbirths transcribed from parish registers, and other sources, from many counties in England and Wales.
It is an ongoing project with more records being added.
The coverage varies considerably between parishes counties and even centuries.
The database covers entries between the years 1551 and 2005 ; though does not claim to be an exhaustive list of such stillbirths.
It should be noted that to be included in this database the entry must
either be noted as a stillbirth, born dead or abortive birth or exceptionally
It is very possible that burials of nameless infants in some registers were in reality burials of stillbirths but as this cannot be confirmed they have been missed off the database.
In a similar manner some Chrisom burials may also have been stillbirths (there number of entries in this database where this has been noted).
Chrisom burials except where marked as a stillbirth have been omitted.
Care must also be taken with entries such as –
“Rose wife of John Wright & a still-born child.”
The above may mean that the still-born child is the child of the couple named or it may be that an unrelated still-born child was buried in the same grave at the same time.
This stillbirth database dispels a number of myths surrounding stillbirths viz:
Stillbirths were not recorded before 1927:
1927 was the year still-births were recorded in a new civil register of still-births, they had however been recorded for centuries prior to that.
The body of a still-born infant could not be buried in consecrated
This database shows not only that the bodies of still-births were buried in consecrated ground but many were in fact buried under the floor of the church itself.
From the register of St Helen, Bishopgate, London 1691 August 23
A Still borne Child of Mr Veveons, in the South Isle the therd pew from the Quire
St Mildred Bread St 1683/4 February 9
An abortive male son of Owen & Mary Buckingham, bur. undr ye 3d Pew on ye North side. A.
Burials of still-births cannot be traced.
Burial registers often given detailed location of the burial place of the bodies of stillborn infants.
Having spoken to a number of mothers who have had the misfortune to suffer
a still birth I have come to the conclusion that whilst a closed still-birth
register may be justified for the first few months or even up to a year
after the “birth”. It is apparent that having a closed still-birth register
causes untold anguish and misery to those very women who have carried their
child perhaps even to full term only for their son or daughter to be ignored
by family, friends and society.
Secrecy even with the best of intentions causes anguish, heartache and even depression.
Instead of hiding the fact of a still-birth it is time society acknowledged the short foetal life and passing of those family members.
If the parents had chosen and announced a name refer to the stillborn baby
by that name.
Many grieving parents are comforted by this because it means that others acknowledge that the baby existed, even though for a short time.
Acknowledge the anniversary of the stillborn delivery.
Talk to the parents but more importantly listen.
The task of compiling a full register of stillbirths is huge with more than 4000 stillbirths occuring every year.
The current register of over 10,000 stillbirths has been released on a cd to enable further expansion of this project.
Code: ARA 604
If you are willing to help in compiling what I hope will become an online register please contact Guy Etchells at email@example.com.
A list of the main sources used to compile the Historic Stillbirth Register.