Dr. Williams Library
The library was named after a Dr. Daniel Williams, a Presbyterian minister, in whose name the library was set up after death in 1716. His will stipulated that a trust was to be set up to, amongst other things, establish a library dedicated to the study of protestant nonconformity.
The registry at the library began when a committee representing Presbyterians, Independents and Baptists, known as the Dissenting Deputies, arranged with the library to keep an official register of births.
Although associated with the non-conformists it offered for a small fee, to everyone, a ‘central registry’ for births known officially as the General Register of Protestant Dissenters.
Up to 49,000 births were registered there until the national Births, Marriages and Deaths Registration started up in 1837.
Registration was made by filling in a form, obtained from a local minister. The form was duplicated and once completed cut in half by indentation. The parents keeping one half the other sent to the library’s registrar. The details to be entered on the form were the birth date, registration date, place of birth, parents names, plus the parents of mother and also who was present at the birth or two witnesses. Also if one of the witnesses couldn’t sign their name then two further witnesses were required to witness that person’s mark.
These registers are now online on Ancestry and FindmyPast and available at the National Archives underclass RG5 and indexed in RG4.