Civil registry

Civil registry

A civil registry or population registry is a repository or database maintained by a state listing vital statistics about all of its citizens and residents. There is a legal requirement to notify the relevant authority of any life event which affects the registry; typically such events include birth, death, and marriage. In some countries, immigration, emigration, and any change of residence may be notifiable.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, mandatory civil registration of births, marriages, and deaths was first introduced in 1837 for England and Wales. Subsequent legislation introduced similar systems in Ireland (all of which was then part of the United Kingdom), and Scotland.

The administration of individual registration districts is the responsibility of registrars in the relevant local authority. There is also a national body for each jurisdiction. The local offices are generally responsible both for maintaining the original registers and for providing copies to the national body for central retention. A superintendent registrar facilitates the legal preliminaries to marriage, conducts civil marriage ceremonies and retains in his/her custody all completed birth, death and marriage registers for the district. The office of the superintendent registrar is the district Register office, often referred to (wrongly) in the media as the "Registry office".

Today, both officers may also conduct statutory civil partnership preliminaries and ceremonies, citizenship ceremonies and other non statutory ceremonies such as naming or renewal of vows. Certified copies of the entries made by the registrars over the years are issued on a daily basis either for genealogical research or for modern legal purposes such as supporting passport applications or ensuring eligibility for the appropriate junior sports leagues.

On 1st December 2007 Registrars and Superintendent Registrars became employees of their local authority for the first time following the enactment of the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007.

England and Wales

Births in England and Wales must be registered within 42 days, whilst deaths must be registered within 5 days unless an inquest is called or a post mortem is held.

Marriages are registered at the time of the ceremony by either (1) the officiating minister of the Church of England or the Church in Wales, (2) an Authorised Person at a Registered Building, religious, or (3)a registrar at a Register Office, Registered Building or Approved Premise.

The official registers are not directly accessible by the general public. Instead, indexes are made available which can be used to find the relevant register entry and then request a certified copy of the details. Increasingly local indexes are being published on the internet, for example:

The General Register Office—now merged into the Office for National Statistics— has overall responsibility for registration administration.


Civil registration came into force in Scotland on January 1, 1855. A significant difference from the English system is the greater detail required for a registration. This means that if a certified copy of an entry is requested, it will contain much more information.

The General Register Office for Scotland has overall responsibility for registration administration and drafting legislative changes in this area (as well as census data). They are governed by the Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages (Scotland) Act 1965 and subsequent legislation (responsibility for which has now been devolved to the Scottish Parliament).

United States

In the United States, vital records such as birth certificates, death certificates, and frequently marriage certificates are maintained by the Office of Vital Statistics or Office of Vital Records in each individual state. Other documents such as deeds, mortgage documents, name change documents, and divorce records, as well as marriage certificates for those states not centralizing these records, are maintained by the Clerk of Court of each individual county. However, the term 'civil registry' is not used.

South Africa

In South Africa, vital records are maintained by the national Department of Home Affairs; any Home Affairs office can record a vital event or issue a certified copy of a vital record.


See also

External links

United States

United Kingdom

Republic of Ireland

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