Alex Wood demonstrates the importance of checking the entries in the Register of Corrected Entries in the Scottish statutory records for births, marriages and deaths.
esearching post-1855 births, marriages and deaths inScotlandis relatively straightforward, whether done on-line through ScotlandsPeople www.scotlandspeople.co.uk, or in person atEdinburgh’s New Register House. The certificates are more informative than their English equivalents. One additional source of information however, is often overlooked. Scottish birth, marriage and death certificates occasionally contain a marginal note, often along the lines, ‘See RCE’, followed by a volume and page number reference with a date. The RCE is the Register of Corrected Entries. Details contained in these registers are often more illuminating than the original certificates. They note changes to the accuracy or add essential, omitted information and correct errors of fact.
The birth certificate (position 1b) for Isabella McKill contains a hand-written note on the left hand margin with a reference to the RCE – the standard form of indicating such a correction.
When unearthed, the Glasgow Central District RCE (position 1c) indicates that her middle name, McNab (her mother’s maiden surname), had been omitted from the birth certificate – most likely a memory lapse by the stressed father who registered the birth!
The correction reads:
In the first column of Entry No 1730 in the Register of Births for the year 1867, for ‘Isabella’ substitute ‘Isabella McNab’. The above alteration is made on the authority of a certificate in the form of Schedule D under the hand of the Revd. Fergus Ferguson, Minister of Blackfriars St E.U. Church.
The correction, in other words, was made on the authority of the baptising minister. This is a relatively trivial alteration but the hand written note in the margin is the typical indication of an amendment to a certificate.
Much more common, especially in the 19th century, were corrections to note the father of an illegitimate child. Providing the parents were married, Scottish birth certificates could be registered by one parent but contain the name of both parents. If the parents were not married, the certificate was annotated ‘Illegitimate’ and both parents had to register the birth if both names were to be attached to the birth certificate.
If the father did not wish to acknowledge his paternity, the birth certificate would contain only the mother’s name and the child would be registered with the mother’s surname. In such circumstances, mothers, or their families, often sought a court action against the putative father to establish his paternity and ‘to give the child a name’. The RCE entry (pic 2 position) for Jane Knowles, born in 1884, is an excellent example.
District of Cookney
County of Kincardine
In the fourth Column of Entry No 65 in the Register Book of Births in the year 1884, before the name of Child’s Mother, insert ‘John Milne, Shepherd’, on the authority of a Certificate in the Form of Schedule (F) to the following effect.
In an Action relating to the paternity of a female Child, named _________ born at Woodside in the Parish of Fetteresso in the County of Kincardine on the 23d day of October 1884, at the instance of Mary Knowles, now or lately residing at Woodisde, Cookney in the Parish of Fetteresso & County of Kincardine, against John Milne, Shepherd, sometime residing at Water Mills, Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire, and now or lately residing at Tipperty in the Parish of Fordoun & County of Kincardine, the Sheriff Substitute of Aberdeen, Kincardine & Banff at Stonehaven upon the 2d day of June 1886 found that the said child was the illegitimate child of the said Mary Knowles and John Milne.
Such RCEs often make sense of other, seemingly inexplicable aspects of family documents. Joseph Barclay Rutherford’s death certificate in 1920 notes him with a middle name. Joseph Rutherford was born in 1860 and is noted on his birth certificate however as plain Joseph Rutherford, illegitimate. There is also, however, reference to an RCE which indicates that his father was one John Barclay.
District of Brechin
County of Forfar
In the fourth Column of Entry No 70 in the Register Book of Births in the year 1860, before the name of Child’s Mother, insert John Barclay, Saddler, on the authority of a Certificate in the Form of Schedule F to the following effect:
In an Action relating to the paternity of a male Child, named Joseph Rutherford born 26th February 1860, at the instance of Mary Ann Rutherford residing in Bridge Street, Brechin against John Barclay, Saddler in Market Street Brechin, the Sheriff Court of Forfarshire (Forfar District) on the 13th day of May 1869 found that the said child was the illegitimate child of the parties aforesaid.
InScotland, it was quite usual to give illegitimate children whose fathers did not register them, their father’s name as a middle name. However, it was also fairly common for such children, although registered with their mother’s surname, to be known by their father’s surname. My own grandmother, illegitimate daughter of Ann Anderson and William Sinclair, was registered as Mary Ann Sinclair Anderson but was always known as Mary Ann Sinclair. Pursuit of the RCE can often explain an otherwise inexplicable middle name. They can similarly explain the seeming disappearance of a child whose birth is registered under one surname but their apparent substitution in subsequent documents, such as census returns, by a child with the same forename but a different surname. This is also a useful reminder that if a birth certificate cannot be found, the reason may often be that the name under which it is being sought may be the name by which the person was generally known, but, being illegitimate, may not the name under which their birth was registered. In such circumstances it is often useful to search for the birth using the known forename and the mother’s surname.
RCEs are uncommon in respect of marriage certificates. They occur to correct minor details such as erroneous names but the most interesting (and the most rare) are those in respect of bigamous marriages. Such entries cancel the marriage recorded. Andrew Arbuckle, a 65 year old coal miner, claiming to be a widower, married Margaret Darroch, in 1864.The marginal note on his marriage certificate refers the reader to the RCE where it is noted that:
In respect of the Conviction of Andrew Arbuckle before the Sheriff Court of Lanarkshire, at Glasgow, on the 6th day of July 1868, of having contracted a marriage with Margaret Pollock or Darroch (his former wife Susanna Farquhar being still alive) it is hereby declared that the relative entry No 271 in the Regular Book of Marriage for the Year 1864 is cancelled. The above insertion is made by the direction of the Registrar General under the provision of the 5th Sect. of the Act 18. Vict. C29. on the authority of a relative Extract Sentence of imprisonment.
RCEs are also noted on death certificates. Fatal accidents or sudden deaths inScotlandare reviewed by the Procurator Fiscal. This procedure applies to accidents such as that which led to the death of John Scott in 1876; his death certificate has a note indicating that there is an entry on the RCE (see pic 5). This shows that he died aged 52 on 28 October 1876 in the East Dock Sheds,Dundeeas a result of ‘injuries received by being jammed between the buffers of 2 waggons. Death almost immediate.’
The Procurator Fiscal also inquired into suicides. A 1930 RCE indicates that the deceased’s cause of death was ‘Suicide from Coal Gas Poisoning’ and that the person was ‘found dead in bed 4 p.m., last seen alive April 15th, 9 p.m.’
The Procurator Fiscal’s inquiry can also indicate that a problematic death was in fact accidental and not suicide. The death certificate of David Loudon in 1928 gives no cause of death, although it does give the place of death as ‘In the River Earn’. The RCE adds only one, vital, detail to the death certificate; it gives the cause of death as ‘Drowning (accidental)’. Such a record may have been of major significance if, for example, the deceased had an insurance policy which did not pay in the event of death by suicide.
The Register of Corrected Entries give a wonderful insight into the most unusual of circumstances. Legal battles, crimes, tragedies and accidents, not to mention simple human errors, are all brought into public view. Don’t ignore th
This article was first published, with copies of several of the vital records and RCEs mentioned used as illustrations, in Family Tree in February 2009