Actually this assumption is also wrong and I have had this argument
before. The act of 1836 says that a parent, householder, etc MAY wish to
register the birth of a child. Even if the registrar found the birth of a
child it was not necessarily registered. About 40% of births were not
registered in the 1840's and part of the 1860's was a bad time in some
places. By the time the act was changed in 1874, taking effect in 1875,
making it a legal requirement to register the birth, more than 90% of births
were being registered. This was also when, if the mother was not married she
could not declare the name of the father without him being present and
signing the register (before this there were many records of The Prince of
Wales as the father). This non-registration gave huge problems with the
introduction of the Old Age Pension in 1908 and the census had to be
consulted. The act is online but I have a very nice copy that I could send
to anyone, just email me off list.
I'm not sure with whom you've had an "argument" before about
registration. I don't recollect having any such "argument" or
discussion with you on this subject.
I have seen and read the relevant Act. It's on Guy Etchells' Framland
site. I'm also well aware that it is a popular myth that registering
births was optional. It was not and never was. The wording of the
Act is clear but can, and regularly is, misinterpreted. It was a
legal requirement that as of *1 July 1837 all births and deaths* were
to be registered. It was the registrar's responsibility to find all
the births. It's highly likely he didn't find all of them but the
parents were supposed to register their child if the registrar didn't
do so. However, the parents didn't have to wait for the registrar to
find them. They could do it themselves and were supposed to if the
registrar hadn't visited them within the required six weeks.
The revision of the Act changed the onus from the registrar to the
parents making it a legal requirement *for the parent/s* to register
their child. The Act does NOT make it a legal requirement for the
registration only after the revision. It was a legal requirement from
the time the original law was enacted. There would have been a degree
of resistance to the new law, as there often is even today, but I
don't believe almost half the new born population was deliberately and
wilfully not registered.
The reason for many of the apparently missing entries, as far as I
know and am aware, is due to clerical error. A good number could also
have been as a result of a young wife going back to her mother for the
birth of her first child, and possibly subsequent ones.
A return was required to be sent to the GRO quarterly, as we all know.
We are also all well aware there are entries which are not in the
GRO indices. This could have been because they were never sent to the
GRO by the local registrar *or* because the clerks at the GRO missed
them off as well as the wilful disregard for the law by registrars.
Mike Foster's book "Comedy of Errors" gives an excellent insight into
the volume of births, marriages and deaths missing from the GRO
indices. Primarily it's marriages but births and deaths are also
affected. Some of these missing entries are held by the GRO and a
request to them or the local registrar's office will produce the
details. It's always worth asking.
For anyone who was eligible for an old age pension and who decided to
claim it but who could not produce a birth certificate, a baptismal
certificate was acceptable. It's possible the census was used as well
in cases where neither a birth or baptismal certificate could be
produced - but we are all well aware of the number of missing people
and families there are in the censuses or who aren't where they were
supposed/expected to be or who weren't born when or where they
believed in all honesty they were - and this without the accidental
misinformation by friends or neighbours completing census forms on
behalf of a head of household or the deliberate misinformation by the
head of household who resented the government's intrusion into their
lives. There are people today who still resent this and don't
complete the census accurately or correctly.
Although this issue is one that affects researchers on this list in a
general sense, it is not specific to the list and thus outside the
topic for it. I suggest therefore it ends before Dai needs to jump on
anyone from a great height :))
OPC for Walton, Greinton and Clutton, SOM
Asst OPC for Ashcott and Shapwick, SOM