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What is a birth certificate?

Local and family history A-Z > Births, marriages and deaths > Civil registration > Birth certificates
  • Antique baby carriageA birth certificate gives you details that have been registered in the official register of births. In England and Wales, registering a birth has been a legal requirement since 1st July 1837, although penalties for non-registration were not introduced until 1875. The registration service is run by the General Register Office
  • There are two types of birth certificate with different levels of detail:
    • a short certificate giving only the child's full name, sex, date and place of birth
    • a full certificate giving you a copy of all the details recorded in the register:
      the registration district and sub-district that registered the birth;
      the child's date and place of birth;
      first names;
      father's name and occupation (usually not recorded in the early period if a couple were unmarried);
      mother's name and maiden name; mother's occupation;
      name, address and signature (or mark) of the 'informant' (the person registering the birth);
      name of the registrar;
      any first name given at baptism after the registration and registered later;
      administrative details
  • The General Register Office has a collection of guides for researching your family tree including one on Birth Certificates

Page last updated: 19th June 2020