Civil birth registrations for Jamaica (1880-1930)

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Parishes were established as administrative districts at the English conquest of 1655. Though the boundaries have changed over the succeeding centuries, parishes remain the fundamental administrative unit. The present parishes were consolidated in 1866 with the re-division of eight now-extinct entities listed below. A good historical look at the parishes as they changed over time may be found on the “Jamaican Parish Reference,” (cited 2010 Jul 1). The three counties of Cornwall, Middlesex, and Surrey have no administrative relevance.

Registration districts are the civil units recording births, marriages, and deaths. Civil registrations of vital records was mandated in 1878, but recording might not have actually begun in any one district until several years later. An indexer-compiled list of Jamaican registration district names, organized by parish, is accessible at Birth records exist in two forms: 1) the narrow slips retained by the district registrar when a birth was registered, and 2) the ledgers or summaries into which the district registrations were transcribed. Some ledger entries list births from a single district; others may include more than one district on the same page.

Each civil registration form is identified with a two-part code, which always appears on the original registration and rarely in the ledgers. The first part is a two-character alphabetic code where the first character represents the parish and the second represents the district; this is followed by the second part of the code, a sequentially assigned registration number. The district code is typically stamped randomly onto the record slips by hand and may be smudged, cancelled and restamped, or improperly inked. It almost never precedes the record number. Though FamilySearch indices typically include only the registration number, official-record requests require both the district code and number.

Individual birth records differ widely in the completion and form of information recorded. Spelling irregularities are common. Staff in the Registrar General's Office occasionally returned to a birth record to amend data. At least one example has been seen where a name was added to the original registration slip over half a century after the birth was recorded. Typically these emendations are dated clearly.