Birth, Marriage and Death Certificates
Since 1837 all Births, Marriages and Deaths in England and Wales have had to be registered at the Register Office in the district where the event took place, (since 1855 in Scotland). Prior to that date it was up to the individual Parishes to record these events.
Often the Parishes only recorded the religious ceremonies, i.e. baptisms, marriages and burials, so it isn't possible to always find exact dates of birth and death. However, whilst we can be pretty sure that there is not much time difference between death and burial, birth and baptism is not so straightforward. Babies were usually baptised whilst still infants, but occasionally, for whatever reason, they were baptised much later. Often their age is recorded on the baptism records if they are not babies, but not always.
Also it is sometimes only the father's name on the baptism records, so without a relevant marriage record, the trail can sometimes end there.
The marriage records can often reveal interesting information such as whether or not a person was literate. A cross by a name and the word "mark" indicate that a person could not write. They can also tell us whether the individual's were widowed and the man's occupation.
The marriage of Joseph Brooks and Mary Field in 1754.
Post 1837 Official Records
After 1837 the birth certificate revealed the mother's maiden name and the residence and place of the child's birth (often the same place).
The marriage certificates tell us the couple's residences at the time of their marriage and also the names of their fathers and their father's occupations. They also give the ages of the couple (although sometimes this is abbreviated to "of full age" for those over 21).
For the first time with death certificates, we find the cause of death. (Occasionally the cause was given in the earlier parish burial records but usually only if the cause was by an outbreak of an illness like smallpox).
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