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Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Baby Days

The new royal baby, Prince George, will be baptised on Wednesday 23 September at the Chapel Royal in St James's Palace. Although your ancestors are unlikely to have made their first public appearance in a blaze of publicity and media attention like the young prince, your ancestors' parents may have placed a birth notice in a local or national newspaper.

Publications such as the Gentleman's Magazine printed birth, marriage and death notices for the middle classes, gentry and aristocracy. Magazines like these can be very useful for tracing ancestors before civil registration was introduced, and before census records were kept.

However, the name of a person's wife and child is rarely given in old newspapers (see this example from the Gentleman's Magazine, below left): just the child's gender is usually mentioned. 

Local record offices and archives keep copies of old newspapers, but it can be very time-consuming to search through these unless you know an approximate birth date already.  However, you can now search many old newspapers online at websites like the British Newspaper Archive and Welsh Newspapers

Baptisms were recorded in parish registers (local record offices) from 1538 onwards, and many local family history societies have transcribed parish registers. Familysearch and FreeReg are both useful free websites for searching for baptismal records, too.  Remember that baptisms may have taken place several months or even years after they were born (one of my ancestor's children was baptised at Manchester Cathedral seven years after her birth!)

You can order birth certificates for children born after 1837 (when civil registration was introduced) from the General Register Office or local register offices (the latters' indexes are the most accurate).  There's a list of sites offering access to the General Register Office indexes here, and some local indexes are listed at UK BMD.  Children born in institutions like hospitals and workhouses were recorded in registers of births, too.

And of course, there's lots more info on how to find out more about your ancestor's baby days in Tracing Your Ancestors' Childhood.

Undated photo postcard of a child and baby. Author's collection.
Gentleman's Magazine, December 1827, Vol. XCVII, Part 2, Author's collection.

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