Civil registration of Births has been compulsory following the Civil Registration Act of 1878. Such records can be consulted, and birth certificates obtained, for a fee, at the General Registry.
Two acts of 1849 recognised the increased strength of Dissent on the Island. One The Civil Registration Act (1849) provided "means to enable persons who object to and decline the offices of the Established Church in this Island to cause registration to be made of Births and Marriages". Prior to this act a baptism performed in a dissenters' church (i.e. not recorded in a parish register) was not accepted in a court of law as proof of parentage.
Thus registration was voluntary, registration of births prior to 1849 was also allowed under the act - the earliest of these (only 46 such were recorded) dates from 1821. However the Athol Street Independent chapel (82 baptisms recorded from 1809), the Scotch Church (St Andrews - about 20 dating from 1841) and the Roman Catholic community (some 200+ baptisms and marriages from 1819 in Douglas, Ramsey, Castletown and Peel) deposited their registers - available as MM microfilm RB512 and LDS film 106721-2) - indices to these are online at <www.iomfhs.im> (follow research link). The gap betweem 1849 and 1877 in Roman Catholic records requires acess to the Baptismal records of the parish - copies of which have been deposited in both the FHS library and the Manx Museum. A few Roman Catholic baptisms between 1798 and 1819 were recorded in the register at Whitehaven.
This act divided the Island into four areas based on the main towns - the following are the earliest dates for subsequent civil registration:
By another act of 1849 An Act for better regulating Parish and other Registers of Baptisms, Marriages and Burials in the Isle of Man Tynwald introduced a more detailed standard form to be used and required that an annual return of such forms be made to the Episcopal Registry (renamed Diocesan Registry in 1880) (records now held in General Registry).
Copies of these forms and a transcription of parish records prior to 1849 made in 1910 form the basis from which the microfilms in the Manx Museum Library were made.
First statute dealing with adoption dates from 1928. However these records are not available for public inspection. Before this many children would spend their early life in Children's Homes.
Transfer of registration from Ecclesiastical to Civil Registries occurred in 1884.
These are considered elsewhere.
Divorce was not available in the civil courts until 1938. Prior to this a specific act of Tynwald was required for each case - the first of which was in 1887 - only 13 such acts are recorded. Prior to this date there was the possibility of legal separation - these came under the court system and were usually reported in the Manx newspapers.
Prior to 1884 all matrimonial law was dealt with by the Ecclesiastical Court and any such records would be found in Liber Causarum. J. Roscow quotes the following case (which effectively divorced one party but not the other), found in the Archdeaconal wills, following on from the flagrant adultery of the wife of William Gawne of Jurby
whereby they are not to be accounted or reputed as man and wife for ever hereafter, never the less we leave the said Wm. Gawne being the innocent party at liberty to marry in Domino in ye Lord when and where he pleaseth; But for his wife, the delinquent party we do by virtue hereof inhibit her according to the tenent of the Church for marrying hereafter with any manner of persons during the natural life of the said Wm. Gawne her late husband.
Date this fifteenth day of February, 1637
In the 1665 reply to Bishop Barrow's enquiry the churchwardens offer one bit of 'gossip' re a certain Bell which would indicate that divorce was not unknown.
Registration of Deaths also became compulsory in 1878