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Civil Registration of Births, Marriages and Deaths

 

Civil registration of births, marriages and deaths, in England and Wales, started on 1 July 1837 introduced after legislation in 1836, the Marriage Act of 1836 (Act of 6 & 7 William IV, chapter 85) and the Births and Deaths Registration Act of 1836 (Act of 6 & 7 William  IV, Chapter 86).

 

1837-1874

The country was divided into Registration Districts, each under the control of a Superintendent Registrar. Registrars were appointed to issue certificates for births and deaths which occurred in their area. Their duty was to actively collect information and they were paid according to their success. There was no penalty for not registering a birth or death, so records from this time are incomplete, possibly a third of the population is missing from these early records. When the  local registers became full they were sent to the Superintendent Registrar for safe keeping. The Superintendent Registrar produced local indexes of events and four times a year sent copies to the Registrar General in London.

Births

Parents were not bound to give birth information unless requested by the Registrar. Some were not truthful about the date of birth, as they had to pay if the registration was more than 6 weeks after the birth. Some parents thought baptism was a legal alternative.

Marriages

From 1837, marriages could take place in a local register office, instead of a church. A new type of marriage register was introduced for all marriage ceremonies. The Church of England, Jews and Quakers could conduct and register their own marriage ceremonies. Two registers were completed, one for the church the other for the state. Other denominations (Methodists, Baptists, Unitarians etc) had to apply for their chapels to be licensed to conduct marriages and could only conduct a ceremony there if, in addition to the minister, a Registrar was also present to record the events in a Register Office marriage register. This did not change until 1898.

From 1874

The Births and Deaths Registration Act of 1874 (Act of 37 & 38 Victoria, Chapter 88) made registration compulsory. The onus for registration of a birth was passed to the parents, or the occupier of the house where a birth took place. The birth had to be registered within 42 days or a £2.00 fine was imposed. It still remained a common belief that baptism registered the birth, also if the parents ran out of time they would either lie about the date of birth or simply not register and hope not to get caught.

The responsibility for recording a death was placed on a relation of the deceased. The registration had to be supported by a certificate signed by a doctor, and the death had to be registered within 5 days.

From 1926

To prevent the irregular disposal of bodies, the Births and Deaths Registration Act of 1926 (Act of 16 & 17 George V, Chapter 48) introduced the requirement for a registrar's certificate or coroner's order to be produced before a burial or cremation could take place. It also required a notice of disposal to be sent to the registrar after the funeral had taken place.

This act also introduced the registration of stillborn children.

From 1929

The Age of Marriage Act of 1929 (Act of 19 & 20 George V, chapter 36) raised the age of marriage with consent of parents to 16 years for both boys and girls.

 

Searching the Index and Obtaining Certificates

All births and deaths registered since 1837 are registered and indexed in both the local Register Office where the event was originally recorded, and in the General Register Office (the GRO) which is now located at the Family Record Centre in London and at Southport, Merseyside. Each place has their own set of independent records and indexes.

The public only has a right of access to the indexes. To obtain information from the records (registers) themselves, you have to buy a copy certificate.

The GRO reference for births, marriages and deaths entries can be found by searching the index at findmypast.co.uk (1837- 2004) this is on a pay per view or subscription basis. Ancestry.co.uk subscription based, offers what it claims is the largest collection of family history records on the Web including England and Wales civil registration. A free search can be made at Freebmd (1837-1983) although the whole index has not been transcribed.

Microfilm copies of the index are held at a number of sites throughout the country, usually at libraries or local record offices, and at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Family History centres.

 

Copies of certificates can be obtained from either the register office which holds the original register or by contacting the GRO at certificates online. Index references are not interchangeable the GRO reference will not help the local register office locate an entry in their records and vice versa. It is useful to provide as much additional, relevant, information as possible about the people involved in the event.

Information about areas covered by registration districts and addresses of current register offices can be found at genuki .

 

Acknowledgement

A big “Thank You” to all the staff at the Bristol Register Office with a special mention for Christine, Dawn and Laura who have spent many hours answering my numerous questions and helping me piece my family back together.

 

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Index of Civil Registrations, Owen, 1837 to 1919

 

Both the GRO Index (1837-1919) and the Bristol Register Office Indexes (1837-1921) have been searched to produce the accompanying Owen Births, Marriages and Deaths Index.

 

Registration districts covered in this index

 

Barton Regis

Created 1st April 1877 (renaming of Clifton district). Abolished 1st January 1905 (incorporated into Bristol, Chipping Sodbury and Thornbury districts).

Sub-districts : Ashley; Clifton; St George; St Philip and Jacob; Stapleton; Westbury.

GRO volumes : 6a (1877-1904).

Clifton (1877-98), Compton Greenfield, Filton, Henbury, Horfield, St. George (1877-98), St. James Out (1877-98), St. Paul Out (1877-98), St. Philip and St. Jacob Out (1877-98), Shirehampton, Stapleton (1877-98), Stoke Gifford, Westbury on Trym, Winterbourne.

 

Registers now in Bristol district apart from Compton Greenfield which are held at Yate district.

 

Bedminster

Created 1st July 1837. Abolished 1st January 1899 (renamed Long Ashton).

Sub-districts : Bedminster; Long Ashton; St. George; Yatton.

GRO volumes : XI (1837-51); 5c (1852-98).

Abbots Leigh, Backwell, Barrow Gurney, Bedminster (1837-96), Bishopsworth, Brockley, Chelvey, Clapton, Clevedon, Dundry, Easton in Gordano, Flax Bourton, Kenn, Kingston Seymour, Long Ashton, Nailsea, North Weston, Portbury, Portishead, Tickenham, Walton in Gordano, Weston in Gordano, Winford, Wraxall, Yatton.

 

Registers now in Bristol and North Somerset districts.

 

Bristol

Created 1st July 1837.

Sub-districts : Ashley; Bedminster; Bristol Central; Castle Precincts; Clifton; Knowle; St Augustine; St George; St James; St Mary Redcliff; St Paul; St Philip and St Jacob; Stapleton.

GRO volumes : XI (1837-51); 6a (1852-1930).

All Saints, Bedminster (from 1899), Bristol, Castle Precincts, Clifton (from 1899), Horfield (from 1905), St. Augustine, St. Ewen, St. George (from 1899), St. James In, St. James Out (from 1899), St. John the Baptist, St. Leonard, St. Mary le Port, St. Michael, St. Nicholas, St. Paul In, St. Paul Out (from 1899), St. Philip and St. Jacob In, St. Philip and St. Jacob Out (from 1899), St. Stephen, St. Werburgh, Shirehampton (from 1905), Stapleton (from 1899), Westbury on Trym (from 1905).

 

Registers now in Bristol district.

 

Clifton

Created 1st July 1837. Abolished 1st April 1877 and registers transferred to Barton Regis district.

Sub-districts : Ashley; Clifton; St George; St Philip and Jacob; Stapleton; Westbury.

GRO volumes : XI (1837-51); 6a (1852-77).

Clifton, Compton Greenfield, Filton, Henbury, Horfield, St. George, St. James Out, St. Paul Out, St. Philip and St. Jacob Out, Shirehampton, Stapleton, Stoke Gifford, Westbury on Trym, Winterbourne.

 

Registers now in Bristol district apart from Compton Greenfield which are held at Yate district.

 

Wellington, Somerset

Created 1st July 1837. Mainly in Somerset, but included part of Devon.

Sub-districts : Culmstock; Milverton; Wellington; Wiveslicombe.

GRO volumes : X (1837-51); 5c (1852-1930).

Ashbrittle, Bathealton, Bradford, Chipstable, Fitzhead, Hillfarrance, Kittisford, Langford Budville, Milverton, Nynehead, Oake, Raddington, Runnington, Sampford Arundel, Stawley, Thorne St. Margaret, Wellington, West Buckland, Wiveliscombe.

 

Registers now in Taunton Deane and Mid-Devon districts.

 

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Bristol Register Office List of Missing Registers

Until the Second World War, Bristol Register Office was situated on what is now Castle Park. In November 1940 this area was destroyed by German bombers, and sadly many of the historical records of Births and Deaths were destroyed.

Copies of records held in these destroyed registers can be obtained from the General Register Office.

Destroyed Birth Registers

District

Register Number

Dates

Bristol Central

65-84

07 July 1932 – 30 October 1939

Knowle

1-24

06 January 1899 – 31 December 1928

Saint George

72-160

06 October 1891 -21 May 1920

Saint George

162-200

09 September 1920 – 13 December 1939

Saint Philip & Saint Jacob

1-256

01 July 1837 – 30 September 1925

Westbury-on-Trym

1 - 27

01 July 1837 – 10 July 1882

Westbury-on-Trym

29-85

24 June 1883 – 20 April 1940

Westbury-on-Trym

87

24 June 1940 – 10 September 1940

Destroyed Death Registers

District

Register Number

Dates

Bristol Central

50-77

19 June 1928 – 03 June 1940

Bristol South

10-18

12 January 1935 – 07 May 1940

Clifton

88-96

13 September 1932 – 23 January 1940

Saint George

85-95

21 February 1931 – 25 June 1940

Stapleton

106-118

14 January 1933 – 10 June 1940

Westbury-on-Trym

1-54

01 July 1837 – 19 February 1939

Destroyed Marriage Registers

 

Although no marriage registers held at the Register Office were destroyed by bombing, many registers were held at Churches and Chapels around Bristol and where these churches were bombed, the registers were destroyed. Separate lists are available for Church of England Churches, and Non-conformist Churches and Chapels.

 

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