This page gives information about primary records available in the UK to the
family historian. The list is by no means exhaustive but provides access to
examples of each type of record using sample Rowden/Rowdon records.
The Births and Deaths Registration Act and the Marriage Act, both of 1836, has required the legal registration of births, marriages and deaths in England and Wales, since the 1st of July 1837. Scotland and Ireland have their own separate records. The registration of the event is made in certificate form in a local register and copies of the certificate may be issued at a cost. Early birth certificates show, for example, such information as place of birth, date of birth, father's name, mother's name, mother's maiden name. In the years since 1837, slowly, more information has been required on the certificate. Thus more recent certificates will show more details than those of say, 150 years ago.
Indexes of the entries from general registers do not show all the information on the certificates. They are simply indexes. However, unlike the certificates, they provide a basic source of material and are available for open public viewing at many libraries, Family History Centres and also The National Archives, at Kew, London.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is a UK Government Agency created in April 1996 by the merger of Central Statistical Office and the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys. It is responsible for the registration of births, marriages and deaths and the National Health Service Central Register. For further information visit the government site covering all aspects of registration go to this page.
Example information provided by the indexes under the surname Rowden is as follows:
Births: - taken from December 1869 quarter index.
|Surname||First names||Maiden||District||Vol No||Page No|
|ROWDON||Alfred George||St Geo H Sq||1a||340|
Marriages: - taken from June 1924 quarter index.
|Surname||First names||Spouse||District||Vol No||Page No|
Deaths: - taken from September 1942 quarter index.
|Surname||First names||Age||District||Vol No||Page No|
In the UK a census of the country is taken every 10 years. They were commenced in 1801 and only in 1941, when the country was at war, was the census not taken.
Initially the census was to provide purely statistical information, however from 1841 onwards the records show names of each person at the address the enumerator visited. Since records are available for inspection after 100 years, records available now included the censuses from 1841 until 1901.
The records provide the forenames, surnames, sex, age, occupation, and place of birth for all individuals at the address on the night of the day that the enumerator visited. From these details it can been seen that the census records provide a very useful source of information for the genealogist.
The information provided in the census is given in the tabular form as shown
|Name and Surname||Relation to Head of Family||Condition||Age||Rank, Profession, or Occupation||Where Born|
|James Rowdon||Head||M||45||Ag Lab.||Devon, Down St Mary.|
|Elizabeth do.||Wife||M||45||Weaver||Devon, Bow.|
|William do.||Son||U||19||Ag Lab.||Devon, Bow.|
|Robert do.||do.||12||do.||Devon, Bow.|
|Samuel do.||do.||10||Scholar||Devon, Bow.|
|Richard do.||do.||8||do.||Devon, Bow.|
|Thomas do.||do.||5||do.||Devon, Colebrooke.|
|Mary A do.||Dau||2||Devon, Colebrooke.|
In villages more than a century ago many marriages were made within the local area. Future husbands or wives can often be found living next door or down the road in these small rural communities. Parents, brother's or sister's families may also be found near by.
A will is a document that describes the wishes of a deceased person and how their property should be disposed. Its correct, full term is Last Will and Testament.
In the Middle ages when land was obtained by rights and obligations it could not be divided to his remaining family but went by Common Law to his eldest male heir, if he had one. All other types of property was bequeathable with one third going to his widow, one third to his children and one third left by testament. If his widow predeceased him everything went to the children.
A Testament was the document that described a persons wishes. It usually began by bequeathing his soul to God and details of burial instructions. It may then have described legacies to the church and poor. Next it would itemise property to be passed to family and friends. Additionally the document would show executors or overseerers of the testament.
Later, the passing of land to heirs was achieved by a document known as the owner's will, and subsequently these two documents were combined under the title of Last Will and Testament, or simply Will.
The will of a deceased person has to be proved by a probate court. If a person dies without leaving a will, that is intestate, the next-of-kin or close friend may apply to a probate court for Letters of Administration of the estate.
In the UK, until 1837 any male over the age of 14 and any female over the age of 12 could make a will. After this year the lower age limit became 21.
Wills may give details of family names, addresses, occupations useful to the genealogist. From January 1858 probate of all wills has been granted by the Probate Division of the High Court. Copies of these wills and letters of administration are available at First House, 42-49 High Holborn, London. A copy of the will may be obtained, or the document viewed, for a fee and an index is available which gives basic details of the will.
The index itself may give useful information. For example the index for 1927 shows:
1927 - ROWDEN Susan Elizabeth
Of Bampton Street Tiverton Devon widow died 15/12/1926 Probate London to Frank Rowden saddler and Arthur Rowden watchmaker and George Horatio Mitchell assistant overseer
Rowdens listed in the index - examples from 1880 to 1940.