With each record, you will be able to see a transcript of the vital details about the event. Most records will also include an image for you to consult. Depending on the age and quality of the original record, the transcript should include the following facts:
Civil registration in Jamaica – the official registering of births, marriages and deaths by the state – started in 1878, and was enforced from 1880, covering the entire population. A central office, called the Registrar General’s Department (“RGD”), was established in Spanish Town in 1879. Registration is carried out through a network of Local District Registrars (“LDRs”), responsible for their own districts and for submitting copies of their records to the RGD.
Each LDR has an alpha code, which prefixes every registration number given at the registering of a birth, marriage or death (the numbering is sequential).
The first letter in the alpha code relates to the Parish. In this context, Parish means the local authority administrative areas (and not ecclesiastical parishes, such as those created by the Anglican Church). Throughout the civil registration era there have been 14 Parishes in Jamaica; neither they, nor the three Counties in which they are nested, have any significance for civil registration.
The second letter in the alpha code is specific to the Local District Registrar.
In combination, these letters create the identifier for the LDR.
For example, all LDRs in the Parish of Clarendon (in the County of Middlesex) have the leading alpha character H in their code. May Pen, which is an LDR within Clarendon, has the alpha code HA, while Bull Head has the code HK.
As in many jurisdictions, Jamaica’s Local District Registrars have changed over time. Some have been renamed, other subdivided with population expansion, so creating new LDRs. Where the availability of two-letter codes is no longer sufficient, a third alpha character is added. For example, again within Clarendon Parish, over time new LDRs were created such as Beckford Kraal (code HAA) and Crawle River (HAT).
Note that it is known that the letter J was never used in any of these codes, and it appears that the same may be true of the letter U.
Records before the period of civil registration in Jamaica – i.e. before 1878 – are not comprehensive or complete. The International Genealogical Index, or IGI, is a hotchpotch of different sources, which is one reason why some individual births or baptisms appear twice within it, and why some records are very detailed transcriptions while others are quite basic index entries.
Anglican parish registers constitute the primary source – in other words, the records of baptism (as well as marriage and burial) created by the individual Anglican churches throughout the island, such as St Thomas the Apostle in Kingston and St Peter in Port Royal. However, there are also baptism records relating to other Christian denominations, and birth records relating to the communities of Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jews.
In the case of civil registration, official birth certificates can be obtained. As well as certificates for more historic births from the late 19th century, you can order certificates for modern births. These are good for all legal purposes, such as passport and ID. They can be ordered online from the Registrar General’s Department in Spanish Town, Jamaica. Go to the RGD’s website link available in the Useful Links and Resources
The form asks for the Birth Entry Number, which is the unique reference which the RGD will use to find the original register and then produce a certificate from the right entry in the register. This should be the registration number mentioned above, preceded by its LDR code – e.g. HA1234 would be the 1,234th birth registered in May Pen (HA) in Clarendon Parish. If you do not have this entry number, you can request it, without charge, from the RGD birth entry form, available in the Useful Links and Resources.
You can then apply for the birth certificate using the link above. Note that if you want to buy a replacement or duplicate birth certificate and still have your old birth certificate, you should find the Birth Entry Number stamped or written on it at the top. The second alpha character in the code may be shown as superscript, i.e. you will see, for example, HA1234 instead of HA1234. If in doubt, request Birth Entry Number as above, before applying for your new birth certificate.