Q is for….

1 November 2013

…. quarters. Surprisingly, despite thinking that Q might well be one of the more challenging letters to write about, there were various quality topics which could have been used today – Quakers, quarantine, quarter sessions, the Queen and more….

But, quarters are an important part of civil registration in England and Wales. From 1 July 1837, the country was divided into registration districts, each split into sub-districts under a local registrar. Births and deaths were reported to the local registrar, who reported them to the superintendent registrar, who sent copies to the Registrar General in London. Marriages were slightly different as they could be performed by Anglican clergy, local registrars in their own offices, or in Catholic or non-conformist chapels. However in all cases, copies of the resulting  certificates were sent to the Registrar General.

The clerks to the Registrar General compiled alphabetical indexes, each divided into quarters of each year: January-March, April-June, July-September and October-December, known as March, June, September and December quarters.

So, you know that your ancestor was born on 15 February 1900…. don’t search for the month of February in the year 1900! Also, don’t assume that the birth must be registered in the March quarter. A period of six weeks was allowed in which to register births and so, frequently births are located in the indexes for the next quarter.

Be prepared for the unexpected and don’t  believe everything you read. The public were responsible for reporting births or deaths at a local register office following the Births and Deaths Registration Act of 1874 and fines were introduced for late and non-registration. Some people avoided paying a penalty fee by giving a later, incorrect date of birth for a child.

The Act also tightened up on birth registrations. The father of an illegitimate child could only be named on the birth certificate if he was present when the child was registered. How frustrating…..!

And a brief note on ordering certificates: don’t be fooled by lots of websites offering you the ability to order birth, marriage and death certificates in England and Wales. Only use the General Register Office ordering facility. Certificates cost £9.25. Don’t pay more!

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