Research Tip of the Week.

Births at sea.

Civil records of births, marriages and deaths are the building blocks of your genealogy research.

They are the easiest records to find, because the only method you need to know, is how to use an alphabetical index.

Today I want to consider birth records. By law, all births were required by law to be registered within three months. If you failed to register your child’s birth, and were caught, it could lead to a court appearance and a fine. Many parents or guardians tried to evade the fine by falsifying the child’s date of birth. It’s very common in Irish research to find baptismal records for children, who according to the dates on their civil birth records, were not yet born. Where you find this in your research, you should take the earlier baptismal date as the closest in time to the actual birth-date.

From 1864 a separate Marine Register of births at sea was also kept. A child born at sea, could be registered up to six months after their birth, without incurring a fine. The parents were responsible for registration. A birth at sea also required certification from the Ship’s Log, and so required the signature of the Ship’s Captain.

Here is an example:

“I hereby certify that this is a true copy of the minute made in the Log of ship Wellesley on the 3rd day of January 1861. Witness my hand this 28th day of January 1861. (John Smith) Commander of Ship. 72 Cornhill, Dublin.”

And, the ship’s Captain was also required to make a certified copy of a birth entry in the marine register.

As genealogists, the amount of evidence we have to work from is often very little. Where a second document survives, it’s always worth cross-referencing research, in case you find any additional little gem of a detail, or an anomaly that could crack open the case.

Between 1864 and 1885 a Marine register was kept, separate and distinct from the main Civil Register. It’s now in the General Register Office in Roscommon. After 1886, the Marine Register was bound with the annual registers in the General Register Office.

The Marine registers between 1864 and 1922 contain over 12,000 names, and are well worth a look.