Saturday, 16 March 2013

Finding a birth certificate for your ancestor (post-1837)...

In 1837, the National Registration of births, marriages and deaths was introduced to England and Wales so "technically" if your ancestor was born, married or died after 1837 there should be a record to find for your ancestors...although some ancestors will always remain elusive.

There are numerous ways of finding records for your ancestors but I will focus this blog entry on the resources I regularly use for finding a birth certificate.

Finding a BIRTH certificate:
We are going to look for the birth entry of my great, great grandfather Frederick Sutcliffe.

Firstly we search for him in the censuses or talk to relatives to gain some basic information about his birth:
  • born in the Barnsley area of West Yorkshire 
  • aged 50 years old in 1911 (see below) so born approximately 1861

1911 census page of my great grandfather, Wilfred Sutcliffe with his parents and brother

Now we have gleamed these few vital facts we can go to the FreeBMD site and input this information to search a few years either side of the year of birth, using * as a wildcard just in case there are some spelling differences in the name.

FreeBMD site with the details of the search inserted

The results bring up many Fred or Frederick Sutcliffe or Sutcliff's births registered in the West Yorkshire area between the years of 1859 and 1863 but I am going to initially concentrate on those entries from the Barnsley district, which are:
  • Frederick William SUTCLIFFE, Sept 1859, Volume 9c, Page 99
  • Fred SUTCLIFFE, June 1860, Volume 9c, Page 121

Either of the above could be my ancestor, there are discrepancies with both names, one being Fred and the other being Frederick William. The latter entry is probably closest in age to the 1911 census form, but ages are often estimated on the censuses or were not accurately recorded.

The next step would be to order the certificates from the General Register Office (GRO) website, which cost £9.25 each and can take a few weeks to arrive through the post or you can pay £23.40 for PRIORITY in order to receive the certificate more quickly. (Due to the cost my preference would be to order one certificate at a time just in case the first one is the the one you want then you do not need to pay for two or do further research on the censuses to figure out which one is more likely to be your ancestor.)

To order a certificate you have to register with the site, have your credit card details to hand and would then need the following information from the FreeBMD search to order the certificate:
  • Year birth registered 1860
  • Surname at birth SUTCLIFFE
  • Forename(s) Fred
  • Quarter registered June
  • District name BARNSLEY
  • Volume number 9c
  • Page number 121

A few weeks later a copy of the certificate will arrive through your door...

Official copy of the Birth Certificate of Fred Sutcliffe

Ordering the certificate tells you much more information about him and his parents. It gives the exact place of birth and his mother's maiden name, which can help your research go back much further.

NB It is unusual to find a person in the censuses listed as Frederick, registered at birth as just Fred. Usually it would be the other way around, they would be registered as Frederick but always known as Fred so listed as Fred on the censuses. This example just shows how names can vary in your searches and so to be open minded and knowledgable about nicknames and how names can be shortened.

Another NB After 1911 the mother's maiden name is listed in the register so it is much easier to pinpoint the correct birth if there are a few to choose from and you know the mother's maiden name. You could do a search only using the father's and mother's surnames using the registration county or district you know they resided in to find all the children to a specific set of parents without using the child's name.

Problems you may have in finding your ancestors:
  • name misspelt or variations of spellings
  • transcription errors
  • registered under a name which the person was not called regularly....nicknames or middle names were used as a first name
  • mixed up first names and surnames or middle and first names/surnames
  • the birth, marriage or death was not registered

Copyright © 2013 Ruth Hogan

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