Research

Civil Registration

Dates of Civil Registration

Civil Registration started in the UK on 1st July 1837 and continues to the present day.

Acts of Parliament which created Civil Registration

Two Acts of Parliament were passed in 1836. By the Birth and Deaths Registration Act and the Marriage Act, civil registration of these three events in England and Wales commenced on 1st July 1837 and for the first time registration took place for everyone concerned. The places of worship of all were once more legal but those of Non-Conformists and Roman Catholics had to be performed in the presence of a registrar. In about 1987, however, an “authorised person” has taken the place of the registrar and in practice the most clergymen are duly “authorised” to perform the ceremony.

Changing Content of the Registration Index

Since the changes made in 1837, other amendments have been made to the index held by the General Registry of Births, Marriages and Deaths which is the starting point of all research into Civil Registration for England and Wales; the following dates are useful in this context.

1866. Index of deaths start to show the age of the deceased.

1874. Penalties came into force for the failure to register birth.

1911. The mother’s maiden name is shown in the index of births.

1912. The surname of the spouse is given alongside the entry of the party indexed.

1984. The index of all events formerly divided into four quarters are now listed under the single year.

Marriage Registers

Marriage registers were kept in duplicate, the second copy being sent at the end of each quarter to the local District Superintendent Registrar who sent a copy to the Registrar General. This is the basic method of administration that has continued up to the present time. Since about 1994 marriage can be performed in buildings duly licensed other than churches and register offices; indeed there is a growing tendency in these secular days, for ceremonies to be performed in exotic overseas locations.