Civil Registration

The registration of Births, Marriages and Deaths have not always been compulsory and has undergone some change during the last 5 centuries.

During the reign of Henry VIII; c.1536, an attempt was made to have all such events registered, but it was considered to be just another taxation rouse. However, a mandate dated 5th September 1538 effected the requirement, but as there were no printed register books available, records were more often than not kept on loose sheets of paper, consequently only about 800 records still exist from around that date.

During the reign of Mary I c.1555-1557, sponsors were required to be named in baptismal entries, this however, ceased in the reign of Elizabeth I who in 1598, approved an order that registers be kept in parchment books and that all the old entries be copied into them. The clergy were given the option of starting from 1558. Additionally, transcripts were made annually and submitted to the Bishop of the diocese, becoming known as "Bishop's Transcripts"

Registration was never really an exact science as it were, and for many reasons it largely depended upon local attitudes. During the time of the Commonwealth the "Barebones Parliament"; so-called after one of its members only made their appearance, an enactment by Cromwell was that the marriage act was no more than a civil contract, and as such was not to be solemnised in churches but in private rooms before a magistrate. Justices also conducted these ceremonies in their own homes. All such ceremonies were not recorded in the church registers as a result, and it was only at the whim of the magistrate whether or not any record was indeed made at all, although some records do exist.

In 1837, it became compulsory for all these events to be notified to the General Registry Office and which is still the case.

My Certificate Page


"Dictionary of Genealogy" by Terrick VH Fitzhugh                      

Mrs Markham's History of England 1854