Re: Importance Value of various Birth Sources

Pauline Parnell

I think Robert’s post just about sums it up.  I’ve had all of those apart from two baptisms on the same day – mine were a few years apart – but I have got an ancestor registered twice in adjacent registration districts, once by the father and the following day by the mother!



From: <> On Behalf Of Robert Flood via Groups.Io
Sent: 04 February 2020 11:23
Subject: Re: [family-historian] Importance Value of various Birth Sources


I must admit to being old & cynical and take the attitude that information in records is probably wrong until proved otherwise.


Birth certificates and christening records should be fine but ... It has already been pointed out that the date of birth may be falsified if the registration is late & christening records may be more accurate. However what do you do if a child is registered as Fred Swale and christened as Frederick Swales (he used the latter throughout his life) or worse registered as Ada Annie Swales but christened as Ada Annie Davy, she was born before her parents were married, they could fool the registrar but not the local clergyman.


I have one child christened in two different churches about twenty miles apart on the same day. As far as we can make out both churches were on the clergyman's circuit and he had mixed up the scraps of paper on which he had noted information for services on two different days, when he came to copy the information into the registers he couldn't remember which was which so entered all the records into both church registers.


Sometimes the clergyman can be really helpful, having searched fruitlessly for a Mortlock marriage across quite a few Norfolk parishes when all was revealed by the parish register entry for the christening of one of their children which contained a snippy remark from the clergyman "This couple live as man & wife but they are not married". Census returns & death records recorded them as married.


Marriage certificates, well their names are probably right but age, place of residence, father, occpations? Age may be the best they know but not right or may be deliberately wrong if one is under age or if there is a significant difference between their ages. Residence, if one or both do not live in the parish then rent a room for a month while the banns are being read, shove a suitcase in the room, never stay there but give it as your residence - it is surprising how often that happened. Occupation, big it up a bit to look more impressive. Father, if you were illegitimate or there had been a family breakup then put down your grandfather or your brother, or even invent someone.


Census returns, in a lot of cases best guess rather than accurate information even for children. Now was little Johnny born while we were it Lower Piddley or just after we moved to Upper Snodbury in the next county, it was around that time? I have someone who was born in Berkshire but whose parents invariably gave her place of birth as a town in Hertfordshire where they had moved not long after her birth. Age, best remembered figure, they could tell you the date but not necessarily year. Also the birth date effect, if little Johnny was born in October 1869, at the 1871 census on 2 April was he one (& a bit) or two? Most parents seem to have gone for the latter.


1939 Register should be accurate but again it depends on the information people gave and how accurate are their memories. I have several cases where the date is right but the year is wrong, usually one or two out ( or they were registered & christened a couple of years before they were born.


Death certificate, date, place & cause of death should be pretty accurate but until very recent times age/date of birth are no more that someone's best guess and can be way out.


The real fun is collecting all the information and collating it to try to work out what really happened.




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