Tuesday's Tip: Learning from 'The Luminaries'

Eleanor Catton’s Man-Booker award-winning tale “The Luminaries” is an excellent yarn, but it unfortunately fails the Family History test. Not giving anything away, much of the plot centres on a stolen identity, and a missing birth certificate for Crosbie Wells who was born in Newington, London around 1809. Oops! This was, of course, well before the advent of civil registration, consequently Crosbie Wells would not have had a birth certificate to steal!

Auckland Libraries catalogue
If a prize-winning novelist can make such an error, it is perhaps worthwhile reminding ourselves of the timeline for vital records.

Although a form of Civil Registration for England and Wales was proposed as early as 1752/3, the system of registering births, deaths and marriages that we know today was not actually introduced until 1 July 1837. In Scotland, registration began on 1 January 1855, and in Ireland births, deaths and marriages were registered by the state from 1864, with non-Catholic marriages registered from 1845. Civil registration in Australia commenced in Tasmania in 1838, Western Australia in 1841, South Australia in 1842, Victoria in 1853, New South Wales and Queensland in 1856, and Northern Territory in 1870. In New Zealand official recording of European births and deaths began in 1848, with marriages recorded from 1854. So, remember that if you are searching for a birth, death or marriage before these dates you will need to consult the relevant church registers - where they exist!


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