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Making sense of old handwriting

Civil Birth Registers


Birth records could be completely handwritten records or a form filled out with handwritten or typed text depending on the time period when they were created. Before the invention of photocopies, when people requested a copy of a birth record, the civil registration officials would provide a certificate of the record. Birth certificates could be a literal and complete transcription of the record or an extract of the same.  Each civil birth entry may contain the following information:

  • The name of the child. 
  • The birthdate of the child. 
  • The birthplace of the child. 
  • The names of the child's parents. 
  • The residence of the parents 
  • The ages and occupation of the parents. 
  • The names, ages, occupations, and residences of the witnesses. 
  • The relationships of the witnesses to the child, if any. 
  • It will never say if the child is legitimate or illegitimate. 

Because of social conditions in the Netherlands, the birth of illegitimate children was not uncommon. If a child was born out of wedlock, it will not usually mention a father, even if he is known. If the child's parents do later marry and the father acknowledges the child as his, it will mention this in the margin. At that time, the last name of the child will also change from the mother's last name to the father's last name. However, this does not mean that he is the biological father! If the child is illegitimate, but the father is named, there is no reason to suspect false paternity. 


Paleography Introduction