Historical background

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William's birth certificate

Births were, and still are, recorded at the General Register Office. You can see William's below. All entries were written by hand on a large ledger in curly 19th century handwriting, which is quite difficult to read now. Pages were made of quite thick paper and had an official watermark faded in the background.

Read a transcript

Here is a simplified transcript of the document.

Registration District: Richmond Surrey

1861 Birth in the Sub-District of Richmond in the County of Surrey

1. When and where born: Nineteenth January 1861 Kew Road Richmond
2. Name: William Robert
3. Sex: boy
4. Name and surname of father: William Robert Towers
5. Name, surname and maiden surname of mother: Mary Towers, formerly Gridley
6. Occupation of father: Bricklayer (Journeyman)
7. Signature, description and residence fo informant: Mary Towers. Mother. Kew Road Richmond
8. When registered: Nineteenth February 1861
9. Signature of registrar James Darnill, Registrar
10. Name entered after registration: empty

What's interesting about this document?

Did you spot that William's sex is shown as 'boy', rather than 'male'? Do you think that is right? It says that William's father was a "Bricklayer (Journeyman)" What do you think "Journeyman" means?


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Find out what Oscar Wilde thought of the way children were treated in prison.

Go to Oscar Wilde's letter