Breach of the Registration Act.

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Currie
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Breach of the Registration Act.

Post by Currie » Wed Jul 29, 2020 10:22 am

Breach of the Registration Act.

When civil registration was introduced to Scotland in 1855 things started off fairly smoothly, except for births. According to the First Detailed Annual Report of Registrar-General of Births, Deaths and Marriages, Scotland:—

“As Registration was comparatively new to Scotland, it was natural to expect that some deficiencies would occur in the Registers at the first starting of the Act; but so carefully had the Act been drawn, and so many means had been devised to check the exact number of Deaths and Marriages, that from the very commencement of the operation of the Act, on the 1st January 1855, it is believed that scarcely one Death or Marriage which occurred from that period has been omitted to be registered.

The checks devised for securing the Registration of the Births were not so effectual at first; so that, for the first month during which the Act was in operation, there was a deficiency in the Registration of the Births to the extent of one half, and for the second month to the extent of one quarter, below what they ought to have been. From that date, however, to the present, the system has worked so efficiently, and the people themselves have been so anxious to avail themselves of the benefits arising from the Registration of the Births of their children, that there is good reason for believing that very few Births indeed now escape Registration.”


No doubt the frequency of birth registrations was given a kick along by what was happening in the courts.

John O'Groat Journal (Wick), Friday, March 23, 1855.

BREACH OF REGISTRATION ACT.

On Friday last Thomas Charleson, farm servant at Castletown, parish of Olrig, was brought before Sheriff Russel, in the Court-house here, charged at the instance of the Fiscal with a breach of the 27th section of the recent Registration Act, he having failed to intimate to the Parish Registrar within twenty-one days of its occurrence, the birth of a child, born by his wife on the 10th January last. The section of the act infringed is as follows, and we would advise heads of families to attend to its provisions, as it is certain these will be rigidly enforced and their neglect duly punished:—

“And be it enacted that the Parents or Parent, or, in case of the death or inability of the parents, the person in charge of any child born, and the occupier of every house or tenement in which, to his or her knowledge, any birth shall take place, and the nurse present at such birth, and in the case of an illegitimate child, the mother of such child, or in the case of the death, illness, or inability of the mother, the person in charge of such child, or the occupier of the house or tenement in which, to his or her knowledge, the child was born, or the nurse present at the birth of such child, shall within twenty-one days next after the day of such birth, and under a penalty not exceeding twenty shillings, in case of failure, attend personally, and give information to the Registrar of the parish or district in which the birth occurred to the best of his or her knowledge and belief of the several particulars required by the schedule (A.) hereunto annexed to be registered touching such birth, and shall, in the presence of the Registrar, sign the Register.”

The complaint concluded for the penalty and expenses.

The defender, through his agent Mr Miller, admitted the charge, but pleaded ignorance of the provisions of the Act, and stated that about the time of the birth of his child he was much distressed in mind by news he had received of the death of his brother, Sergeant Charleson, at Scutari. Certificates of the general excellence of defender’s character, and his desire to conform to the laws, from Mr Mackenzie the minister, and Mr Auld the assistant minister of the Free Church at Olrig, were produced and read, and also a certificate showing that he was in poor circumstances, and unable to pay any heavy fine with the expenses of an action. Mr Cameron, the Parish Registrar, was in attendance. The Sheriff found defender liable to the penalty, but intimated that in consequence of the certificates in his favour, he would mitigate it to 5s. At the same time his Lordship warned him, and he wished it to be publicly known, that ignorance of the law was no excuse for the parties breaking it, but this being the first case which had come before him under the Act, he was inclined, in the circumstances, to be as lenient as possible, although in future the Act would be rigorously enforced.

The Fiscal intimated that Mr Cameron, the registrar would accept no fee for his attendance, and he would restrict the expenses of the action to £1. Had the full expenses been charged, they would have amounted in this case to about £3 10s.

(It appears it is not competent by the Act to recover the penalty in the Small Debt Court, and the summary proceeding, while both less simple and less convenient, is far more expensive, must be resorted to. If representations were made in the proper quarter, it would be an easy matter for the Registrar General to issue an order, or the Lords of Session an act of sederunt, authorising the adoption of proceedings under the Small Debt Act, and thus obviate an absurd anomaly, which renders the costs of an action quadruple the amount of the penalty, and entails on the defender an expense which the framers of the Act never intended should be exacted.)

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John O'Groat Journal (Wick), Friday, April 27, 1855.

BREACHES OF THE REGISTRATION ACT.

WE are constrained to refer to the recent prosecutions under this Act, which during the last few weeks have been remarkably numerous; the unfortunate defaulters being mulcted in sums the loss of which in most cases will tell heavily upon their household necessities for weeks to come. Since the 20th of March, twenty-two individuals have been punished for neglecting to fulfil the provisions of this Act, and have in each case been fined 5s of mitigated penalty. So far, well. No one would object to the levying of this sum as a fine; it would operate as a warning; and were the expenses proportionate to the fine, the loss would be sufficiently felt, without trenching seriously upon the slender purse of a poor man. But, unhappily, the expenses are far beyond anything bearing an adequate proportion to the penalty exacted. In the early cases brought before the Sheriff here, the expenses reached as high as from 38s 10d to 44s 6d in each case, being fully 800 per cent. in excess of the fine. In the cases reported in to-day’s Journal, the costs vary from 23s 8d to 30s 4d. We do not blame the executive for these very extensive charges. They are no doubt according to, perhaps under, the scale of fees exigible in such actions; but unquestionably the framers of the Act have been most inattentive to this vital part of its workings, when they provided for the recovery of the penalties by separate summary process, involving expenses of from 25s to 45s, while the Sheriff or Justice of Peace Small Debt Courts throughout the Kingdom offer so simple and inexpensive a method; the costs before these courts being only from 2s 6d to 4s or 5s.

With provisions high, and other household necessities being enhanced by present legislation, it is no small matter for a poor working-man, with a family, to lose thirty-five or forty shillings; and we would impress upon the people the necessity of complying with the requirements of the Act. Many in this county are, we believe, ignorant of the Act altogether; but such ignorance forms no excuse; and while it remains, these expensive prosecutions will continue,—at least until something be done to alter the present mode of pursuing. Surely, if application were made to the proper quarter, (we confess we cannot say where that is, if it be not the Lord- Advocate; had there been a Secretary of State for Scotland, the thing were simple enough,) a less expensive plan of recovering the penalties under the Act might readily be obtained in the shape of an order to prosecute before the Sheriff or J.P. Small Debt Courts.

Meanwhile, as the matter at present stands, and as the complaints are both loud and deep on the subject, we would take leave to suggest that ministers of all denominations, especially in country parishes, would do well to intimate from the pulpit the provisions of the Act, and the penalties attached to their non-observance. The Act concerns every one, whatever his station; and the necessity, both in a statistical and pecuniary point of view, for a general acquaintance with its requirements, is at once apparent.

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This series of posts will be about what happened to people who by intent, neglect, or ignorance, breached the Registration Act, even if the breach was just a by-product of something more sinister.

To be continued.

Alan

nelmit
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Re: Breach of the Registration Act.

Post by nelmit » Thu Jul 30, 2020 5:33 pm

Brilliant as usual Alan. =D>

20s does seem a bit harsh.

Kind regards,
Annette

Anne H
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Re: Breach of the Registration Act.

Post by Anne H » Fri Jul 31, 2020 7:50 am

Goodness me! Harsh laws and steep penalties.

Look forward to the next instalment, Alan.

[cheers]
Anne

Currie
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Re: Breach of the Registration Act.

Post by Currie » Wed Aug 05, 2020 11:17 am

Thanks Annette and Anne.

There’s a variety of court cases this week. Some treated fairly leniently, others treated extremely harshly.


Stirling Observer, Thursday, June 28, 1855.

Breaches of the Registration of births, &c. Act.—The following parties have been charged before the Sheriff, with breaches of this Act, viz.:—George Robertson, slater, Dunipace, Denny; John Chalmers, mashman, Bankeir; John Richmond, clothlapper, Denny; William Jaffrey, coal-miner, Parkfoot; and Jonathan Young, collier, Auchinloch, Kilsyth. The charge in all the cases, was the neglect of registering the birth of their children, and they having pleaded guilty, were fined 2s. each.

The Sheriff, Sir John Hay, at the same time informed them that the requirements of the Act must be fulfilled, and the reason so small a fine was enforced, was not that the offence was trifling, but that the law had been a very short time in operation. We would draw the attention of the public to the above, and hope it may have the effect of making parents and others more careful, as a neglect to register births, marriages, or deaths, is now by law a severely punishable offence.

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John O'Groat Journal, (Wick), Friday, December 26, 1856.

Breach of the Registration Act.—On Wednesday, Margaret Macbeath, from the parish of Latheron was brought before Sheriff Russell, charged with the non-registration of a birth. Sentence—a fine of 25s, and expenses, to be paid within a fortnight, with the alternative of a month’s imprisonment.

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Stirling Observer, Thursday, January 8, 1857.

Sheriff Criminal Court.—Breach of the Registration Act.—On Monday last, Mr John Moir, farmer, Midbaldonnan, parish of Campsie, was charged before Charles Baillie, Esq., Sheriff of Stirlingshire, at the instance of Robert Sconce, Esq., Procurator-Fiscal, with a breach of the Registration Act, inasmuch as he had failed or neglected to register the death of his father within the time prescribed by the provisions of the above Act. He pleaded guilty and the learned Sheriff fined him in the mitigated penalty of 5s., which was immediately paid. The authorities here are determined to apply the provisions of the enactment strictly against all parties failing to comply with its conditions. No apology can now be offered for neglecting to do so, as every publicity has been given to its requirements, and parties will have themselves to blame should they suffer heavy penalties for neglecting to register births, marriages, or deaths within the stated periods.

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Inverness Courier, Thursday, October 1, 1857.

Contravention of the Registration Act.
Hugh Lawler was charged with having given false information to the Registrar of Births, &c., respecting the birth of an illegitimate child born to his sister, on the 5th of August. He pleaded guilty to having made the statement, but said he had done so in ignorance of the nature of the offence, having been bribed to go to the Registrar to make this statement.

The Lord Justice-Clerk addressed the prisoner, saying that the fact of his having gone to the Registrar was was proof that he knew for what purpose he went there, and what was his duty. He had falsely stated that his sister was married to this Hugh Maccallum, and got the child entered as the lawful child of this person. This was a dangerous offence. At a future time possibly the succession of property might have depended on that register, and though he had committed the offence perhaps to hide his sister’s shame, the crime was not the less aggravated, and he would inflict the same punishment as had been imposed in a similar case in Edinburgh, namely, one year’s imprisonment.

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Dundee Courier, Wednesday, October 7, 1857.

Perth Autumn Circuit Court.
Mary Campbell, from Kenmore, was charged with a breach of the Registration Act. It appeared that she had made a fictitious statement to Mr William Armstrong, the Registrar of the parish, to the effect that her child had died of the measles, while in reality it had not. Her object had been to excite charity. Panel pled guilty, and was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment.

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Fife Herald (Cupar), Thursday, December 30, 1858.

Dunfermline Sheriff Court.

Archibald Jordan was then placed at the bar, charged with a breach of the Registration Act. From the evidence it appeared that the panel, who resided in Brick Row, Oakley, had courted Margaret Riddel or Somerville, a young woman, in whose house he lodged, for some time previous to the period in which he had committed the act for which he was then put upon his trial. But about that time, or rather a little before it, a widower of the name of David Robertson stepped in and got the woman Riddel to consent to become his wife. Their names were proclaimed in the Parish Church of Carnock, and the only two things wanting to make them one flesh was the possession of the marriage lines and the solemnisation of their union by a clergyman.

On the evening of the 21st of September, 1857, however, the panel, Jordan, who was well aequainted with the bridegroom, Robertson, said to him, “I am going to Carnock to-night, and, if you like, I will call on Mr Stewart and get your marriage lines for you. It will save you the trouble of the travel.” Robertson thoughtlessly consented. Jordan accordingly went to Carnock and got the lines from the parish clerk’s house or office, but never gave them up to their lawful owner. It seems that he had made it up with the woman, Margaret Riddel, to go into Dunfermline along with him and get themselves married on the credit of the lines. They accordingly went into Dunfermline and got married, the panel answering before the clergyman to the name of David Robertson. The panel afterwards went to the Parish Registrar and got the marriage registered under the same false name. All this happened last year, in the month of September, and the law authorities having become cognizant of the whole matter, Jordan was taken held to bail to appear at the Perth Circuit, but having failed to do so, he was outlawed for non-appearance. He was afterwards again apprehended and lodged in jail till Friday, the day of trial, before the Sheriff Court. Jordan, on being questioned, pled guilty, and was sentenced to four months’ imprisonment.



More to come,

Alan

garibaldired
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Re: Breach of the Registration Act.

Post by garibaldired » Wed Aug 05, 2020 12:53 pm

Absolutely fascinating, Alan.

Thank you.

Best wishes,
Meg

Anne H
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Re: Breach of the Registration Act.

Post by Anne H » Wed Aug 05, 2020 1:14 pm

Gosh, there were all kinds out there! How sad that a woman registered her daughter as being deceased to elicit charity funds. Must have been desperate!

Thanks Alan,

Anne

SarahND
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Re: Breach of the Registration Act.

Post by SarahND » Thu Aug 06, 2020 9:16 am

Thanks, Alan
What a variety of ways one could get in trouble! :shock: It seems a bit arbitrary - the gentlemen in Stirling only being fined 2s and then poor Margaret MacBeath of Latheron 18 months later being fined 25s and expenses :(

Sarah

Currie
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Re: Breach of the Registration Act.

Post by Currie » Wed Aug 12, 2020 3:24 am

Thanks M, A & S.

Just to give an idea of what a 25s Christmas fine, not to mention the expenses, meant to poor Margaret MacBeath in 1856. Stonemasons were demanding 27s per week instead of 24s. A railway company employee earned 26s per week. A woman operating a sewing machine, if just learned could earn 8s and a clever hand 12s per week. 15s per week, with food, was being paid to farm labourers. A coal miner was earning 20s to 24s per week.

Next follows a strange case from the Dundee Courier, Tuesday, September 27, 1864. It makes you wonder how many of these cases slipped through the net and are now in the hands of some poor genealogists trying to figure it all out.



SHERIFF JURY COURT.
A STRANGE CASE.
BREACH OF REGISTRATION ACT.

Christina Jackson, Dundee, was charged with a breach of the Registration Act, by giving a false information to William Johnston, Registrar of Births, Deaths, and Marriages, on the 29th July, to the effect that on the 25th of July 1864, she had given birth to an illegitimate male child, at No. 6 Bell Street; that she was the mother; and that the child’s name was George White Jackson—the truth being that she had not given, birth to any child at the time and place mentioned.

The prisoner adhered to her plea of not guilty, and the following declaration was read ere leading evidence:—“I am twenty years of age, and I am a domestic servant, and am presently residing in Leetown, in the parish of Errol. About the end of July, I called at the office of William Johnston, Registrar of Births, Deaths, and Marriages for the First District of the burgh of Dundee, and I asked him to make an entry in the register of births of the birth of a child of my own. I gave information that the child had been born about a fortnight before at Carslogie, in Fife, where my sister resides. My sister's name is Mrs Adam, and her husband is a ploughman. I did not say to the Registrar that I had brought forth the child at No. 6 Bell Street, Dundee. The particulars I gave to the Registrar in Dundee was substantially correct in all respects. After the birth, I went to the Registrar of the parish of Cupar, where the child was born, in order to register the birth there, when I was informed by the Registrar that I ought to enter the birth in the parish of Dundee, as the place of my ordinary residence; and it was in consequence of this that I came to Dundee and made the entry at Mr Johnston’s office. Mr Johnston did not read over the entry which he had made, but I made my mark, not being able to write, at the place pointed out by him in the register book, and I gave the name of the child as George White Jackson. The name of the father of the child is William White, and his father’s name is George White, I resided with Mrs King at No. 6 Hawkhill, Dundee, for about two months before I went to my sister in Fife, and previous to that I lived a fortnight at Ann Anderson's, in Bell Street, Dundee.”

William Johnston deponed that the entry was made by him at the request of the prisoner on the day libelled, and that the information was given by the accused. He remarked to the girl that the time between the birth and the time that she called upon him was very short, but she said she was sure of the date of the birth. She said she could not write, but she made her mark, and the entry was made in the usual manner. She got a certificate of the birth away with her. Some time after, a young man came to him with the certificate. He said his name was White, and that he was the person referred to; that the child was a forgery; that there never was a child; but that she had borrowed a child and come to him with it.

William White deposed that he was a bleacher at Drumgeith. Was acquainted with the prisoner. She came in the month of May, and said that she was with child to him. About the end of July she came with the certificate, and said she had borne a child to him, and that that was the certificate. She said the child was born at Carslogie at Cupar Fife, in prisoner’s sister’s house. She said she had applied to the Registrar at Cupar to register the birth, and that he would not do it, and that she would have to go to Dundee, as she resided there. About the beginning of August, she and her sister came and asked him to support the child, He said he would do so, but he wished to see the child, and, according to arrangement, he went to Carslogie on Saturday the 6th August with the prisoner, They left at night, and arrived about five o’clock on Sunday morning, and her sister told him the child was with prisoner’s mother at Leetown, near Errol. He went with her to Leetown in the afternoon, and her mother said she did not believe she ever had a child. By this time prisoner had left, and he did not see her again that day. On the following Tuesday he received a letter from her, asking him to meet her in her aunt’s house. He went to Stobb’s well accordingly, and saw prisoner. She had a child, which she said was his. He had some doubt about the child, and she said he could write to Dr Robertson in Cupar-Fife, who had delivered her. He did not do so, as next day a woman came to him, and he saw a child which the prisoner had borrowed from another woman. He then went and told the Registrar that the certificate was a forgery, and that there was no child.

In cross examination by Mr Paul, witness said that he had been a servant at Drumgeith along with the prisoner. She and witness were sweethearts, She left at Martinmas last.

Mr Paul asked if he seduced the girl.

Mr Baxter objected to the question as being irrelevant, but it was allowed by the Sheriff, who remarked that it might go to mitigate the punishment.

Mr Paul —Had you sexual intercourse with prisoner?

Witness—Yes, I never promised to marry her. She never asked me to marry her. I don’t know what
reason she had for coming to me.

By the Court—She said she had borne the child which she showed me at Stobbswell.

Mrs Leslie, Matron of the Female Model Lodging-House, deponed that the prisoner came to lodge in the Model Lodging-House on the 6th August. She went away that night, came back on the 8th, and went away on the 9th August.

Isabella Russell, millworker, deponed that she lived in the Model Lodging-House in the month of August, On Tuesday the 9th of that month, another woman came with the prisoner and asked to be allowed to take out witness’ child to give it an airing. They promised to take great care of it. They got it away about two o'clock, and they did not return it till two o’clock next day.

Ann Low and Isabella Cameron corroborated the evidence of preceding witness.

Helen Jackson or Adams, Carslogie, deponed that she was the sister of the prisoner. Prisoner paid her a visit in July. She left her on the last Friday of July. Prisoner never had a child in her house, and she never was with child.

James A. Welch, registrar for the parish of Cupar, deponed that, so far as he was aware, prisoner never called on him to have a child registered.

John Alexander Robertson, doctor in dental surgery, deponed that he was not an accoucheur, and that there was no other Dr Robertson in Cupar. Witness never saw the prisoner.

Ann Anderson deponed that the prisoner lived in her house, No. 6 Bell Street, seven or eight months ago. She never had a child there.

Mr E. Baxter then addressed the jury for the prosecution, pointing out to them that all that it was necessary for him to prove was, that the prisoner made a false statement to the Registrar. It was immaterial whether she had a child or not, if she gave false information to the Registrar, and after going over the evidence he contended that he had proved not only that the particular statement she made was false, but that she never had had a child at all.

Mr Paul addressed the jury for the defence, contending that, as according to Mr Baxter, there was no such person in existence as George White Jackson, therefore there was no crime committed. The offence charged was that of making a false statement regarding some person. Now, if there was no such person in existence as George White Jackson, there was no offence, and there could be no penalty; and, therefore, as there had been no crime committed by his client, he was sure it would give the jury great pleasure to discharge her. They had seen this girl, who had apparently been well brought up. This was her first place, and there she met this young man, who was older than her. He admitted that he had connection with her, and it was perfectly possible that she might have had a child. From his subsequent conduct, he proceeded to say, it was evident this young man was anxious to be a father, and that she was anxious to be a mother. He thought she had very good reason to wish to be his wife, because she had given herself up to his embraces, and she wished to be made an honest woman. He was not going to say that she had a child, as that might place his client in a worse position; but it was possible that she might while staying with some of her friends, and that it might be lying in some quiet burying ground with no monument over it. It was not customary for a woman to proclaim her shame, and if this girl had had no child, would she have been likely to go to this Registrar? He thought the most common sense view of the matter was that she must be in some little mistake in stating that she had this child in Bell Street or in Carslogie. He had no doubt the jury would give her the benefit of any doubt existing on their minds. This girl was the party who was brought to trial here; but he was sure they would much rather have been sitting to try him who had brought her to such a position.

The Sheriff, in summing up, characterised Mr Paul’s statement that there was no such person in existence as George White Jackson, as a mere quibble. What the jury had to judge of was, whether she wilfully made false statements to the Registrar? She stated that she had borne a child, named George White Jackson, at No. 6 Bell Street, on the 25th August, and it was for them to judge whether these three several statements were true or false.

The jury found the charge proven.

Mr Paul then stated in mitigation of sentence that the accused had already been a month in jail.

The Sheriff said he was sorry to see a respectable girl like the prisoner charged with a crime of this kind, and on account of her having already been imprisoned for a month, and also that possibly she did not know that what she was doing was any offence, he would sentence her to a month’s imprisonment.



I’ll try to round up some more recent cases, although they will likely remain n*m*l*ss.

Alan

SarahND
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Re: Breach of the Registration Act.

Post by SarahND » Wed Aug 12, 2020 9:15 am

Wow... :-? :?: I'm still confused! Anyone in the forum have George White Jackson in their family tree? :lol:

[cheers]
Sarah

garibaldired
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Re: Breach of the Registration Act.

Post by garibaldired » Wed Aug 12, 2020 2:11 pm

I do wish I could say yes :lol:

=D>

Best wishes,
Meg

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