Wednesday, 22 January 2014

A Blogging Collaboration Leads to the Answer

Introductions are the order of the month, but I will keep it brief.  I am Sue Adams and I live in Thetford, Norfolk, England.  I am coming up to the first anniversary of my launch as a professional genealogist.  My business name is Family Folk.  Rather than bang on about myself here, I direct you to the Geneabloggers series that featured yours truly at May I Introduce You To…Sue Adams

I blog at Family Folklore Blog on a variety of genealogy and family history topics.  Blogging is about communicating and communication leads to collaboration.  The following story begins with a post published in September 2012.


The Question

Stamps on a selection of certificates with dates

The post, Stamp duty and authenticity of legal documents, examined a marriage certificate and lead me to do some homework on why stamps appear on original birth, death and marriage certificates.  Stamps were an effective and convenient method of paying the tax levied in legal documents, which includes vital certificates.  The revenue stamps used evolved over time, but use of the penny postage stamp for taxation was introduced in 1853 and the Stamp Duties Management Act 1870 included a penny tax on ‘copies of registers of births & c’.

Amy, of Amy: Finding My Past wrote a post Stamp duty on birth, marriage and death certificates and posed the question:
"What I have yet to establish is when the practice of attaching a stamp to certificates died out. The latest example I have in my possession is from 1948. I’d be interested to hear from anyone who has a later example or knows the date this practice stopped."

The Collaboration

Ever skipped comments left on blogs?  You could be missing some gems.  Comments on both my post and Amy’s narrowed down the date range:

ContributorDatetypeStamp or no stamp?
cjJan 1949deathstamp
SoamesFeb 1949birthstamp
SoamesNov 1949birthno stamp
cjFeb 1950birthno stamp, 'Exempt from stamp duty' printed over stamp box
Amy1954no stamp
Sue1956birthno stamp

Soames nailed the time period down to between February and November 1949.  CJ’s observation suggests the duty was abolished.  My hunch was that the duty abolition is probably in one of the annual Finance Bills passed after the budget.


The Answer

The Finance Act 1949 was enacted on 30 July 1949.  It abolished stamp duty on a long list of legal documents, but only gave the headings specifying the type of document in the Stamp Act 1891.  It included headings relating to Copies or Extracts, which in the 1891 Act turns out to be:
"The duty upon a certified copy or extract of or from any register of births, baptisms, marriages, deaths, or burials is to be paid by the person requiring the copy or extract, and may be denoted by an adhesive stamp, which is to be cancelled by the person by whom the copy or extract is signed before he delivers the same out of his hands, custody, or power."

I would likely have never have navigated tax law without the clues from the certificates. Thank you to Amy, CJ, and Soames for their help in answering this question.


  1. It is good to welcome another UK blogger on Worldwide Genealogy. and thank you for featuring such an unusual topic. I had never stopped to wonder why stamps were on certificates. I look forward to reading future posts. .

  2. That was so informative and I will not look at stamps the same. In the State of Alabama African American had a "Poll TAX" stamped on their Death Certificates. Now we don't do that practice anymore. It was usually a HINDERANCE and RACIAL. If you can't pay the Poll Tax you can't VOTE. Thanks for joining us and look forward to reading more of your stories! WElcome England!

  3. Sue,
    That was a great story and so inline with this blogs goal. Looking forward to learning more. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Fascinating ! Thanks for such an informative blog. I look forward to your next post.

  5. How interesting that you could trace the information back to a real bonafide law change.

  6. Thank you all for your kind comments. If you dig deep enough, you will often find the law is behind what is recorded and how.

  7. I have never heard of stamps before being placed on actual documents. Very interesting and would like to know more. Thanks for sharing and I look forward to hearing more from you.

  8. Sue a very interesting post and I had to go and look back at a few of the early certificates to see which ones had stamps on them.

  9. I don't know if we ever had stamps on documents in the US. Interesting question.


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