I was born in a major hospital in the UK prior to `1982.. But I never received a birth certificate. People always respond "that is weird" if I write or say that. So my research found

[1] Prior to 1982 birth certificates in the UK weren't enforced as strictly so there was a greater chance of not getting one. [2] I found myself on hospital records on a certain online genealogy site. I had to know which hospital. I did so I looked that up. It lists the general time window [about 2 months], my name and my parents surnames and my mother's maiden name. All were correct. So there was no way of it being anyone else.

But that makes things weird. Somehow I never got a birth certificate. So you would think that maybe it was lost in the rush of a hospital. But that explanation isn't sound because there was still time for me to end up listed by name in other hospital online records as said above.

So my question: under my circumstances [it's not as though I was any unsual case in the middle of nowhere etc] how common was it to not get a birth certificate? Especially prior to 1982.

Worth adding that there is no doubt that I never got a birth certificate; I applied to the British Government once for something that needed one and they told me that there had never been one for me.

  • 2
    What changed in 1982? Jun 28, 2019 at 0:14
  • 4
    Strange indeed. I have two (pre 1970), one handwritten and one typed (but there's only one of me...I think...). Jun 28, 2019 at 0:15
  • 5
    May have something to do with British nationality law and "From 1 January 1983, a child born in the UK or the Falkland Islands[7] to a parent who is a British citizen or "settled" in the UK or the Falkland Islands is automatically a British citizen by birth." Jun 28, 2019 at 0:20
  • 5
    I think a clarification is in order - were your birth not registered, or did you just not get certificate of the registration? That is - they told me that there had never been one for me Were they actually talking about the birth certificate, or did they mean they don't have you on the Birth Register at all? I think the former is relatively easy to explain; the latter would be rather more unusual.
    – Semaphore
    Jun 28, 2019 at 3:34
  • 5
    It's not clear if the question is about registration or birth certificates. Registration of birth was a legal requirement since the 19th century, with an absolute duty to register and fines for non-compliance introduced in 1875. Of course, people don't always obey the law, but it can be hard to tell how many failed to do so. angliaresearch.co.uk/articles/…
    – Stuart F
    Jun 28, 2019 at 13:45

1 Answer 1


There are two parts to this question

  • Registration of birth
  • Parents (or others) obtaining a birth certificate (copy)

There are two distinct documents that are colloquially referred to as a birth certificate:

  • "Certificate of Birth" (short-form birth certificate, abbreviated certificate)
  • "Certified Copy of an Entry on the Register" (long-form birth certificate / full certificate)


According to Wikipedia:

In England and Wales, birth registration with the state began on 1 July 1837. The birth was registered in the birth district and at the end of each quarter, the registrar sent a copy of all entries to the Registrar General. However, registration did not become compulsory until 1875.

So registration has been compulsory since 1875.

In the case of every child born alive after the commencement of this Act, it shall be the duty of the father and mother of the child, and in default of the father and mother, of the occupier of the house in which to his knowledge the child is born, and of each person present at the birth, and of the person having charge of the child, to give to the registrar, within forty-two days next after such birth, information of the particulars required to be registered concerning such birth, and in the presence of the registrar to sign the register.

I can find no officially sanctioned circumstances in which registration within 42 days can be avoided legally.

The registrar estimates there may be 20 births a year that are not registered within 12 months.


Any person wanting a full form birth certificate nowadays has to purchase one (currently £11). Typically parents purchase one for their child. However it isn't currently compulsory for anyone to buy one.

At the time of the 1874 act, the maximum price was one shilling:

Every minister or person who performs the rite of baptism shall deliver the certificate required by this section on demand, on payment of a fee not exceeding one shilling.

Note "on demand", it wasn't issued automatically.

I believe the short-form certificate (omitting details of parents etc) is normally issued free to the parents. Obviously this can be accidentally left behind, lost or mislaid.


According to the Guardian

If you were born before 1983 then it is most likely that you’ve only ever seen your short-form birth certificate (the one printed in red ink). That’s because until 1983, the short-form certificate was considered evidence enough of a person’s name and date of birth. The short-form certificate is actually titled the “certificate of birth” and contains a person’s full name, sex, date of birth and registration district of birth. It is given free of charge when you register a birth. What we call the full birth certificate is actually a “certified copy of an entry on the register” and is the certificate that contains every bit of data you might actually want protected.

So the usefulness of the short form birth certificate changed at roughly the time you ask about. However there is no reason why a birth in the UK would not have been registered - this would have been very unusual, and no special reason why your parents would not then have been issued with a short form birth certificate for their newly born child.

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