Although I don’t usually enjoy receiving brown envelopes through the post, I will make an exception when one arrives from the General Records Office or the GRO as it known here in the UK.
And when a civil registration certificate with the details about a newly discovered ancestor is enclosed within this brown envelope, I always feel a frisson of excitement as I pour over the information that is detailed (or sometimes not!) within the columns.
However, nothing quite compares to the sight of an original certificate and when you discover that the said certificate was once the faithfully kept property of the ancestor who has long captured your interest, well, let’s just say that my delight knows no bounds!
Many years ago when my research about Clarice was just beginning, one of my favourite memories is of a visit to that I made to Scarborough, a coastal town in North Yorkshire and the former stomping ground of so many of my ancestors that I could create my own Family History Trail featuring the abodes, businesses, chapels, courts of justice, graveyards and the like.
I might add that my thoughts about the creation of a Family History Trail weaving its way throughout the social and political history of Scarborough has been inspired by another trail of someone, who like me had a huge family and who also enjoyed a rich history by the sea.
Whereas the Kennedy Legacy Trail appeals to many with an interest in the personal life of a former US President and his family; my History Trail could only be of importance to anyone who happens to find themselves perched upon the same genealogical tree branch as me.
However, back to my visit to Scarborough and the raison d’être for this post today!
As the purpose of my visit has been to chat with Betty and Arthur who as members of my family had known Clarice well; I was more than a little thrilled when Arthur handed me a brown envelope that contained some original birth, death and baptism records and I finally discovered Clarice’s surname at birth!
And not only that but that it had been her personal copy of her birth in September 1913 that she had faithfully kept throughout two world wars, a brief marriage and the tragic hospitalisations until her death in June 1962.
Although Arthur kindly allowed me to copy the originals; it wasn’t until much later that as I pored over the details of another gem, her Certificate of Baptism, that I discovered something of interest.
For at a mere 14 days old, she had been baptised at a Primitive Methodist Chapel in Perth Street, Hull within walking distance of her family home in Irene Avenue and yet her parents were to wait a further 41 days in which to register her birth and if I can do my sums properly, I calculate that Clarice had been on this earth for over 7 weeks before she was officially recognised on Monday November 10 in 1913.
Given the superstition that has long remained over the nature of infant baptism, particularly if the infant in question is sickly; an explanation for the rush to baptise Clarice is that she was struggling with life almost as soon as she appeared in it and the delay exercised by her parents to register her existence officially is that she was not expected to survive.
Having shared my hypothesis with another family member, who I might add was to favour a very different scenario for as Clarice’s parents were both young and struggling financially, the fee of Three-pence due to the Registrar was simply beyond their means until much later than expected.
However in 1913, the Registrar of Births and Deaths should have been notified of Clarice’s arrival at the very latest by Tuesday October 28 1913 as the law was very clear and an informant could expect a financial penalty for a late registration beyond the 6 week deadline.
And if Clarice’s parents were as financially strapped as Everil believed that they were, I can’t imagine that a fine for late registration would have helped the family coffers!
Colin D. Rogers in his fabulous book The Family Tree Detective argues that there are provisions for late registration and it would be interesting to discover if in this case that there were mitigating circumstances.
One circumstance of mitigation that they could not rely on would be an ignorance of the law for Clarice had an older sister who having been born on September 19 1911 was duly registered and by the same informant, their father before the 6 week deadline.
Although Rogers makes the point that genealogists tend to forget that civil registration is not run for their benefit; but how much more enticing our work would be if an explanation for a late registration were duly recorded in a column titled ‘Miscellanea’.
The Family Tree Detective (A Manual for Tracing Your Ancestors in England and Wales) Colin D. Rogers (UK: Manchester University Press 2008)