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Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - CONTENTS -

Your ideas, com­ments and ad­vice

Your 17 Ways to Search Like an Ex­pert fea­ture in the September is­sue men­tioned vac­ci­na­tion records and this re­minded me of some­thing I have come across in my re­search. When I started on my hus­band’s fam­ily his­tory some years ago, I hit a brick wall al­most straight away when I couldn’t find a birth cer­tifi­cate for his grand­fa­ther.

Over the years I tried every vari­a­tion of our sur­name in­clud­ing mis-tran­scrip­tions such as Mays and Keys. But I had his death cer­tifi­cate with his date and place of birth so I trawled the Beth­nal Green 1891 cen­sus at my lo­cal Fam­ily His­tory Cen­tre, as this was be­fore the days of the cen­suses be­ing on­line. Even­tu­ally I found my hus­band’s grand­fa­ther’s fam­ily with his four sib­lings. Of the five chil­dren I only found births had been reg­is­tered for the first two. A sixth child ap­peared with the re­lease of the 1901 cen­sus and guess what? No birth reg­is­tra­tion for her ei­ther.

Had just one child not been reg­is­tered I would have put it down to a mis­take but to have a to­tal of four chil­dren out of six un­recorded, there had to be a rea­son as it ap­pears that their par­ents de­cided to stop reg­is­ter­ing them af­ter the first two chil­dren. It was then that I came across the Na­tional Anti-Vac­ci­na­tion League. The re­ports in Wil­liam Tebb’s Com­pul­sory Vac­ci­na­tion in Eng­land (1884) show that even the gov­ern­ment knew there were prob­lems with the vac­ci­na­tions of the day. Tebb refers to a re­port sug­gest­ing 25,000 ba­bies suc­cumbed to dis­eases brought on by vac­ci­na­tion.

I found that the date of this re­port and the new Vac­ci­na­tion Act of 1898, which al­lowed par­ents to ob­tain a cer­tifi­cate of ex­emp­tion, and im­proved vac­cine safety, fit­ted in with our miss­ing birth reg­is­tra­tions, es­pe­cially as my hus­band’s great grand­fa­ther re­mar­ried in 1904 and the child from this mar­riage was reg­is­tered. So I’m sure I have my an­swer.

The only way to en­sure chil­dren weren’t on the Vac­ci­na­tion Reg­is­ters was not to reg­is­ter their births. There was a three guinea fine for this but the pros­e­cu­tion, fine and/ or im­pris­on­ment for non vac­ci­na­tion were far more se­vere un­der the dili­gent Beth­nal Green Health Of­fi­cer. I just wish I could ask my hus­band’s great grand­fa­ther if I’m right. Sue Heys Ed­i­tor replies: Thank you for shar­ing this, Sue. I think it’s a fas­ci­nat­ing pos­si­bil­ity and may an­swer a query for other fam­ily his­to­ri­ans miss­ing births dur­ing this pe­riod. Have other read­ers come across this is­sue?

Did vac­ci­na­tion fears mean births went un­reg­is­tered?

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