Cornwall Civil Registration- Vital Records
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Civil registration, which is the government recording of births, marriages, and deaths, was instituted in Cornwall at the same time as all of England, 1 July 1837. The act establishing civil registration required that births be reported within 42 days and deaths within 5 days of the event. With the institution of the act, civil marriages could now be performed at the registrar's office, and those performed in the churches were registered at least quarterly by the ecclesiastical authority or his representative. Copies of the registration were sent by the district registrar to the Office for National Statistics each quarter, and they are indexed by calendar quarter. Because of the time allowed to register, some events, especially births, may be registered in a later quarter than when they actually occurred. A free index is available online at http://www.freebmd.org.uk/ but searchable indexing on this site, particularly after about 1925, is incomplete. However, Ancestry.com and findmypast.co.uk have completed the searchable indexing of birth, marriage, and death registrations to 2005 and 2006, respectively. That indexing has been done independent of the other company, and the occasional errors on one site may be correct on the other. The search methodology also differs, which may affect the facility in searching for individuals. Coverage gaps, especially in the searchability of marriages and deaths, on many other sites are still noted. The pages can be browsed on some sites and the reference found if one knows the date of the event. Copies of the certificates can be obtained through the district registrar's office or from the General Register office online at http://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/. The copy received from the GRO is actually a photocopy of a handwritten copy made at the district registrar's office, which was sent to the GRO, and the signatures are not in the hand of the parties to the event. Although accuracy is very high, there were occasional errors made while copying certificates for the official record now preserved at the GRO.
The county is divided into registration districts, but there have been some changes in the jurisdictions over time, with some parishes now in different registration districts than they were originally found. The individual parish pages on GENUKI for Cornwall provide information for determining present and past registration districts for each parish. GENUKI pages for Cornwall can be found at http://www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/Cornwall/ Some districts have been consolidated or renamed and altered.
The registration districts in Cornwall are as follows: Bodmin; Camelford; Camborne-Redruth (from Jun 1974); Falmouth; Helston (to Mar 1936); Isles of Scilly (from Jun 1901); Kerrier (from Jun 1936); Launceston; Liskeard; Penzance; Redruth (to Mar 1974); St Austell; St Columb (to Jun 1936); St Germans; Scilly Islands (to Mar 1901); Stratton; and Truro. In addition, there have at times been Cornish parishes or parts thereof in the following registration districts in Devon: Holsworthy, Plympton St Mary, and Tavistock.
Although civil registration was required by law from its institution in 1837, compliance was far from universal during the first few years, especially for births, but increased to the point that more than 90% of the events were registered by 1850. Registration of deaths was much better than for births, as the church authorities were often instructed to require proof of civil registration prior to burial. Registration of marriages has been almost complete since institution of civil registration, although indexing of a few marrriages has only one of the parties. Obedience to the law requiring registration became much better, and probably reached 99%, when penalties for non-compliance were instituted in 1874.
More Online Information
- Civil Registration Districts in Cornwall up to 1974
- Cornwall OPC Database contains records of Baptisms, Banns, Marriages, Burials, Birth Certificates, Marriage Certificates, and Death Certificates.