HSN Data Sources - Birth

16 October 2018 - 15:53

This section answers the following questions: when did a birth have to be reported; who could make the declaration; what data can be found on a birth certificate; and what about illegitimate children?

When a birth had to be reported
Each birth had to be reported to the registrar of the municipality in which it took place. The birth had to be declared within three days, the day of delivery itself not included. In 1913 it was stipulated that Sundays and comparable public holidays (Christmas, Whitmonday, Easter Monday, etc.) were also not included. After this time limit, no notification could take place, unless an authorization was granted by the public prosecutor.

Who declared a birth
The declaration ought to be made by the father or, in his absence, by the midwife or someone else who was present at the delivery. When the mother gave birth outside her home, the declaration was made either by one of the aforementioned or by the principal occupier of the house in which the birth took place. In the certificate the name, occupation, place of residence, and age of the declarant are most often mentioned first.

Data on a birth certificate
The registrar asked the declarant for information on the day and hour of birth, the place within the municipality in which the child was born, and the sex and Christian name of the child. Items to be recorded for the parents included surnames and Christian names, occupation and municipality of residence. The names and marital status of the parents had to be registered in such a way that the legal status of the child was clear. Generally, the father of a newborn child made the declaration, which means that his age is known. Until 1935 a person who declared a newborn child to the registrar had to be accompanied by two witnesses, which means that their ages, addresses and occupations were recorded as well. The witnesses and the person who declared the birth were obliged to sign the certificate. In case they could or would not sign, the reason for this had to be made explicit.

Illegitimate children
Those children born outside legal marriage are illegitimate. Their mothers were generally unmarried, or their former marriage had ended at least 300 days before. Children resulting from adultery of a married woman were registered as legitimate, unless her husband had refused and had started a complicated procedure to dispute the child's legitimacy.

The birth certificates of illegitimate children differed in important respects from those of legitimate children. The registrar was not entitled to state the name of the father, unless the father officially recognized the child. He could only do so when he could show a document proving that the mother consented in the recognition. The recognition was a voluntary act on the part of the begetter of an illegitimate child, creating legal ties between him and the child. The father acknowledged his paternity, thereby admitting his obligation to provide for the child. The child received its father's last name and could then inherit from him, albeit only a third of what it would received if legitimate.

Only 'natural' children could be recognized, that is, children whose parents were both unmarried. Children begotten in incestuous of adulterous relationships could not be recognized. Until 1947 children could, in principle, be recognized only by their biological father. However, it is likely that illegitimate children were often recognized by a new partner of the mother, in this way adopting the child.

Recognized children were automatically legitimated (that is, become equal to legitimate children) when their parents married. Often the recognition took place just prior to the marriage celebration and was noted in the marriage certificate (until 1970). The fact of recognition had to be noted in the margin of the birth certificate. It is a problem that recognitions were not always marked on both copies of the birth certificate. The recognition could take place along with the notification of the birth or by a special certificate as well. This special certificate was made by the registrar or by a public notary. These latter recognitions could be noted on the birth certificate upon request and after examination by the registrar to determine that they did not concern 'adulterous' or 'incestuous' children. Because legitimation of recognized children automatically ensued from the marriage of their parents, no specific mention of this fact needed to be made on the birth certificate. This means that the information on legitimations is less complete than on recognitions.

On the right: Birth certificate 1896, Winschoten (Groningen)


HSN Data | Sources Birth certificate
Birth certificate Winschoten (Groningen) 1896