Family Events


Registration of the Children of Dissenters

From The Times, 3rd February 1829


Old News

Many people run into difficulties researching their ancestors because there are no surviving records of there were no formal records of children's births before civil registration was introduced in 1837. The law meant that baptism records were kept by the parish churches for those who were baptised into the Church of England - but there was no official record of birth or parentage for non-conformists.

This lack of records caused administrative problems at the time. Dr William's Library provided an unofficial register for a fee, and some well-to-do non-conformist families registered their children's birth.

John Gibbs' birth certificate

registered at Dr William's Library

The above certificate shows that John Gibb's birth was registered in 1805 - some 13 years after he was born.

The article shows that the dissenters of Aylesbury wanted the law to be changed "to establish a legal mode of registering their children, that they might be enabled in all cases to produce admissible evidence as to their linear descent." and decided to write to Lord Nugent

Hale Leys Chapel, Aylesbury, circa 1870


It is worth asking why an item of this nature should appear in a London daily such as The Times, so some background will help.

Lord Nugent was the Member of Parliament for Aylesbury between 1810 and 1850. Aylesbury was an interesting borough in that the "potwallers" (male householders) of the town had a vote - and there was no controlling landlord to suggest who you should vote for (which is what happened in the "rotten boroughs" prior to the Reform Act. This meant that there were real elections for the member of parliament - often well lubricated with bribes - and it was important that the current M.P. kept in well with his electorate.

The Times 31 October 1829

 John Gibbs (who happens to be my great great grandfather) was a local auctioneer whose father, Robert Gibbs, was involved in the distribution of bribes in the 1802 election in Aylesbury. John was politically very active in the reformist cause (see An Aylesbury Reformist) and clearly worked closely with Lord Nugent at election times. John launched his son John Rolls Gibbs into business at the age of 21 by founding the Aylesbury News in 1836 - as following the decease of the Bucks Chronicle (see above advert) the only newspaper in Aylesbury at the time was the Bucks Herald, which promoted the Tory cause and the Church of England.

The Times 28 February 1828

There is one big unanswered question. Was John Gibbs the Times' Aylesbury correspondent at the time?  He seems to have the right qualifications. The paper almost certainly had someone to report on the prices fetched for agricultural products at the market - and the local auctioneer would have ready access to such information. In addition John had political views which he wanted to publicise and which appear to be acceptable to the paper. He was in an excellent position to report on the activities of the local M.P. and there are several reports where he may well have been the person who wrote it. On occasions he advertised in the Times and in the above example gives prominence to the fact that the Stoke Mandeville property came with a vote for the local M.P. He had an interest in printing - when in  1826 he joined with his brother, George Washington Gibbs, in setting up a print shop and pawnbrokers in the shop in St Albans - which later led to the establishment of the St Albans Times & Herts Advertiser newspaper. And, not being afraid of self publicity, he launched the Aylesbury News to get his political views better heard.

April 2012   Page created