Saturday, August 18, 2012

Expert Facebook Q&As :: BDM Certificates

Another Thursday and another great Expert Q&A sharing session. This week we discussed how to get the most from your Birth, Death and Marriage certificates. Thanks again to Shauna Hicks, for joining us and giving us the benefit of her family history expertise and years of experience! Please find the transcript of the Q&A and useful links, and you can count on Shauna being back to help with your family history in a future Q&A.

Don't forget our Expert Q&As happen every Thursday night on the Inside History Magazine facebook page.

When: 8:30-9:30pm EST | WA: 6:30-7:30pm WST | SA - NT: 8:00-9:00pm CST | Weekly on a Thursday night

Summary of links from BDM Certificates Expert Q&A:

Top tips from Shauna Hicks on BDM certificates:
Read the certificates carefully, compare info on birth, death and marriage certificates carefully, where possible try and get the handwritten copies rather than a typed certificate (minimises human error), don't always believe what is on the certificate (only as good as person giving the info) and sometimes they just simply lied! So check with other documents as well. Remember that civil registration dates for each state /or countries varies and before then you definitely need to look for parish registers.


Transcript of Expert Q&A - how to get the most from your certificates; Birth, Death and Marriage certificates:

Welcome everyone, thanks for joining us tonight. The rules are simple. Try to keep your questions concise & focused on Birth, Death and Marriage certificates, that will help Shauna to answer as many as possible in the hour that we have.

Q. Hi Shauna and Cassie. Years ago, in Victoria, I think there was an attempt to database witnesses to marriages, but I don't know if that happened anywhere else. Are you aware of any databases such as that - as I am especially looking to find a family black sheep acting as a doctor in NSW, so he should be on birth and death certificates.
A. Shauna: ‎@Linda Yes I have heard of people doing witness indexes but not familiar with the details - I would need to look into that more
A. Linda: @Shauna Thank You!
A. Shauna: @Linda Re the witnesses index - try looking at Cora Num's website as she often picks up related indexes - here is the link to her BDMs page
A. IHM: @Linda Hi Linda Barraclough, this could be the witness database you're looking for ::
A. Shauna: Thanks Cassie now I'm going to have to check that index out myself!
A. Linda: Ta for the two indexes - been away looking. I'm looking for a doctor in Boggabri in NSW - basically guess best bet is to write and register with local hist soc, and hope they can keep an eye on certs. Used to be good in the old days when you could just rock up to the court house and look at the lot. Did a lot up the Darling River that way, but never got to Boggabri.
A. Shauna: @Linda local newspapers might be worth checking too, maybe he advertised too.
A. Linda: [Friday, 17/08] I was going to throw this one in last night, but it was a little busy! Many years ago, a famous incident happened at the East Gippsland Genealogical Group. A new member came in, and asked how to use the microfiche indexes to BD&Ms (this is in the old days, of fiche of the actual indexes). The member pulled a random fiche out of the births, and put it up on the screen. And seemed to go into a really strange trance, that it took him a long time to come out of. There, in front of him, was the birth he had searched unsuccessfully for, for years. She was registered with her third given name as her surname. Father's name had been changed to make it fit, and everything. We have never been able to calculate the odds of this happening, but they are pretty long! There are witnesses!

Q. I am trying to locate the Birth certificates of two deceased sons of my Great Grandmother Elizabeth Tegreth,(maiden name Debnham, first married name Maxwell) died in Forbes NSW 1926: one was Allan Maxwell (possibly original surname was Debnham) born in Young who died on 26th April 1915 at Gallipoli aged 25 years, the other has no information on her death certificate. Would love some guidance, please.
A. Shauna: ‎@Colleen Usually when people can't find a certificate it is a spelling variation so you need to check all possible variations, also check under maiden name of mother or former married names as
A. Shauna: @Colleen Re the missing birth certificates question sometimes I just search on given names and a year and that way I can pick up any odd spellings of the name, you just need to try all variations of a search
A. Jill: @Colleen Colleen, I recently visited the Forbes Family History group in person and from their resources was able to knock down a 20+ year brick wall. May be worth contacting them.
A. Shauna: Thanks Jill yes local genealogical and historical societies have some great local resources and are definitely worth contacting.

Q. What do people commonly miss when reading certificates?
A. Shauna: People tend to just look for the date and place of the event but it is also important to look at all fields eg witnesses at a marriage maybe relatives or the midwife at a birth even witnesses to a burial. Spelling of place names can vary so the more certificates you look at you may be able to work out what it should be - I purchased all the birth certificates of my gg grandfather's children and eventually ended up with the right place in Ireland!
Q. IHM: Do the certificates vary by state? If so, what are some important variations to note?
A. Shauna: Because certificates are expensive you should make certain that the type of information you are looking for is on the certificate - I find Graham Jaunay's quick guide very useful as there is a lot of variation between the states
A. Shauna: I find NSW, QLD and VIC the best certificates but sadly I have SA ancestors too and SA is one of the least detailed

Q. We have searched (via for a relative born in 1845 Gravesend, Kent. Is it possible his birth was just never registered? Where else should I look?
A. Shauna: @Rachael The UK indexes are now available online via a number of different sites as well as the old microfiche. I would try another online site because you can get indexing errors (we are all human)
A. Helen: @Rachael It is worth checking with the Northfleet registrar office which was the local office as the Ancestry indexes are the National GRO indexes. My grandfather born in 1915 Northfleet in was not listed on the national indexes but I was able to get his certificate from Northfleet. Also check that he is not one of the Male (your surname) listings as there was a requirement to register by a set date and sometimes the name decision had not been made.
A. Shauna: Thanks Helen yes local offices are another place to look and Helen's example also highlights how errors can creep in to the official indexes too.
A. Shauna: Yes I find those unnamed children quite frustrating!
A. Helen: Also worth checking for the Gravesend parish registers as it may narrow down when the baptism took place.

Q. Hi Shauna - and other researchers! I was wondering if you had any tips for tracking down death certificates in NSW in the mid-late 19th century? A few former convicts I've been researching have been seemingly impossible to find.
A. Shauna: @Sarah Are you sure they died in NSW? Sometimes convicts changed their names and moved on? Are they common names?
A. Shauna: @Sarah Were they married? Any children? I tracked one convict from TAS, to VIC and finally got him dying in Auckland - it helped that he was a butcher and he stuck to that trade.
Q. IHM: Did your Auckland butcher have a NZ Death Certificate Shauna Hicks?
A. Shauna: Yes there was a NZ death certificate with absolutely no information on it, his wife was the same and getting back further has been tricky!

Comment. Shauna: As we are getting close to the finish line (still in Olympics mode) I would just like to suggest that people should relook at their certificates from time to time as sometimes we don't recognise something and it is only with further research that a piece of information becomes more significant - this goes for all documents too

Comment: Chez: Hope you don't mind...but wanted to make a comment re: names - for years I had looked for Arthur born in Newtown NSW could never find him...but knew that was his name (we are only going back to early 1900's) any how on a whim I think I just used the first letter 'A' and believe me he has a very common surname...found him...he was registered on his birth certificate as Author - yep never would have found me it indicated a bit of an accent! So be adventurous!! lol
A. Shauna: Love that comment Chez - yes just using a first letter can be useful - great example of a spelling variation, must remember it! Reminds me of when I found an Onions family for someone - the certificates made it look like Union and it was only when I sounded it out that I thought of Onions and sure enough, there they were!
A. IHM: Great tip Chez Leggatt! What are your top 5 tips for family historians examining certificates Shauna Hicks?
A. Shauna: 5 tips - read the certificates carefully, compare info on birth, death and marriage certificates carefully, where possible try and get the handwritten copies rather than a typed certificate (minimises human error), don't always believe what is on the certificate (only as good as person giving the info) and sometimes they just simply lied! So check with other documents as well.
A. Shauna: Another point to remember is civil registration dates for each state /or countries varies and before then you definitely need to look for parish registers.
A. Jill: I had a group registered as a job lot after the parents were married and the Legitimation Act came in in 1902 in NSW so don't just look at the estimated birth date - widen your search.
A. Shauna: Another good point thanks Jill - lateral thinking is the only way to go with family history research!
A. IHM: Go to the FamilySearch wiki for more on Australian state civil registration dates and BDM records ::

Comment. Cathy: I could not find a Hawes ancestor in the death index-turned out he had been indexed as Hawkes. The certificate itself was correct.. Also my grandmother and her six siblings did not have registered births in SA-had to locate the baptism records.

Comment. Jill: Thanks for the conversation everyone - I feel a Geniaus post coming on.
A. Shauna: Yes I like hearing about other's experiences especially with finding people under weird entries in the indexes - it's a great way to learn.

Comment. IHM: Time flies when you're having historic fun, we're at 9:30 already! Thanks again to Shauna for her expertise tonight and thanks to everyone for your questions and comments. Don’t forget to follow Shauna's blog and you can find her books on Unlock the Past. We’ll publish the questions, answers and links from tonight’s session in a blog post this coming week.
A. Shauna: Thanks for having me. I enjoyed it as well as learnt a few more sites. Now off to research!
A. IHM: It was our pleasure Shauna :) We’ll be here again next Thursday, 23rd August from 8:30 – 9:30pm, with our next expert Q&A. Next week we have Zoe D'Arcy and Anne Mclean from the National Archives of Australia, answering questions on how to get the most from NAA’s amazing collection! We’ll be coming to you from the International Council of Archives [ICA] Congress.

Links for Birth, Death and Marriage certificates:
BDM transcription services:
Online databases:

Read the previous Expert Q&A transcripts:
[1]  Thursday, July 26 :: How to get the best from Trove Australia

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