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  • Certificates

    certficate.jpg​Certificates form an important part of genealogical research.

    Without them it is difficult to prove relationships and dates with accuracy, and there comes a time when you will need to order certificates to enable your research to continue.

    This section will help you find out all about certificates and how to go about obtaining them.

    The following guides give information about certificates for events in England/Wales and also for events in Scotland.

    England/Wales certificates cover the period from July 1st 1837 to the present day.

    In Scotland the first certificates were issued in 1855 and continue to the present day.

    Types of certificates

    There are three types of "event" which result in a certificate being issued:
    • Birth Certificates are issued when a birth is registered
    • Marriage Certificates are issued when a marriage takes place
    • Death Certificates are issued when a death is registered

    Visual guides and information relating to certificates

    Separate sections guide you through birth, marriage and death certificates, with visual extracts and guides to the columns and entries found on certificates.

    The guides can help you to understand how and why an entry may appear.

    Please remember

    The information recorded on a certificate is only as accurate as the information given by the informant. Age at marriage or death are examples of information that may not be what you expect. In some instances you have to accept that the information may not quite match with other documentation you have.

    Another point worth remembering is that parents were only legally obliged to register their offspring's births from 1875, so if you can't find a birth registration before that, then it's probably because the birth wasn't actually registered.

    There are also sections giving information about where and how you can order certificates, along with some guidance on the process of ordering certificates from the numerous sources available.

    Understanding Certificates:

    FTF Guide: Certificates: England and Wales

    FTF Guide: Scottish Records

    FTF Guide: Certificates: International Australia, Ireland and Malta

    Scanned Certificates

    So what is a scanned certificate?

    Basically a scanned certificate is a copy of the original register entry, it will be the nearest thing to having the original certificate in your collection and shows the signature or mark of your ancestors.
    The telltale sign of a scanned certificate is the signatures, they are in different handwriting to the rest of the entries on the certificate.

    The extract from a death certificate illustrated shows a rather shaky signature made by the informant, something that you won't find on a General Register Office issued certificate.

    Handwritten/typed certificates

    So what about handwritten/typed certificates?

    Handwritten certificates are certificates issued by a local office, a blank certificate is written out by the staff working there now, it contains the relevant information but will have modern handwriting. Some very diligent offices employ the services of someone with neat writing and skills to write in an old style, nonetheless the certificate contains the all important information you want whatever style is used.

    A typed certificate is fairly self explanatory, again a blank certificate is completed after you place the order. The details are typed onto the blank, they are very easy to read, no struggling to make out the letters that you may experience with a handwritten certificate, but they have a very "sterile" feel to them. Great for information and ease of use, but not so good for the authentic feel.

    The extract from the handwritten certificate clearly shows that the certificate has been completed by just one person, if you examine the name of George Hay in the columns you will see that both the "signature" and the "non signature" entries for the name are written by the same hand, and as such you are not looking at his signature.

    General Register Office (GRO) Certificates

    But aren't GRO certificates "original" documents?

    Most of you will doubtless have ordered a few GRO certificates, they are supplied from GRO held records but are NOT the original documents that your ancestors would have signed. Only the local registrars have access to the original documents.

    If you look at any signatures on a GRO cert they are in reality a "forgery", the whole certificate was completed by one person from an index sheet supplied by the local registrar.

    The extract from a marriage certificate clearly shows the names of the happy couple are in identical writing to the "signatures", a sure sign the certificate could not be a scan of the original register.

    FTF Certificate Exchange
    If you have unwanted certificates, please post the details here - you may even find the one you have been saving up to purchase...

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