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The registration of births, marriages and deaths in the United Kingdom started in 1837, but at first there was no penalty for failing to register a birth. In the British system, all births are recorded in “registers”, which have columns for various particulars of the birth, usually including the name of the child, sex, the names of the parents, the date of the birth, the location of the birth, and sometimes additional information such as the name of the attending physician, the race of the child, or the occupation of the parents. These birth registers are maintained by some government agency, who will issue certified copies or representations of the entry upon request.

Before the government’s registration system birth or more precisely baptism (and also marriage and death) certificates were created by a current incumbent priest providing certified true copies of entries in parish registers.

[edit] Types of certified copies issued in England and Wales

Each “full” birth certificate issued is actually a certified copy of an entry from the register of births, which is held by the local Register office and at the General Register Office, Southport, pursuant to the Births and Deaths Registration Act of 1953. The full certificate is an exact copy of the entry, showing the child’s surname, forename(s), date of birth, sex, place of birth, the parent(s) name(s), their address and occupations at the time of registration. Full certificates are required for most legal purposes.

In addition, one can obtain a “short” birth certificate, which is an abstract of the original entry and only includes the surname, forename(s), date of birth, sex, registration district and sub-district in which the birth took place. No fee is chargeable for this certificate at the time of registration. These documents are public records and copies can be purchased upon provision of all relevant information.

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