The post of registrar of births and deaths is one well worth the consideration of women desiring employment of a clerical nature, a statement which is borne out by the fact that some 130 women in England and Wales are engaged in this work. Some notes on the method of making application for the post, the nature of the duties, and the emoluments may therefore be of interest.
Application for the Post
Woman's Work desires to act. The application must, therefore, be made to the guardians, who, on the occurrence of a vacancy usually advertise for candidates, from whom selection is made, the name of the selected candidate being submitted to the Registrar-general for approval. A candidate must be between 21 and 50 years of age; must not be a pawnbroker, an undertaker, a person licensed to sell intoxicating drinks, or an agent for an industrial assurance company; must not, within six months of the day of appointment as registrar, have been a member of the board of guardians making the appointment; and must be able to write a good, legible hand, as it is necessary that the writing in the national records should be clear and distinct. Naturally enough, a candidate who has the friendly ear of some of the guardians will find the chances of appointment are considerably enhanced.
Nature of the Duties
The chief part of the work is, of course, the actual registration of births and deaths, and in order that the entries may be made in a legal and formal manner, registrars must first obtain a thorough acquaintance with the regulations issued by the Registrar-general for their guidance. The entries made in the registers form the basis of other duties of the post. Copies thereof have to be made at the end of each quarter for transmission to Somerset House, where they are bound up and stored; from them also registrars have to compile at certain periods returns for various authorities, such as the medical officer of health, the vaccination officer, the old age pension officer, the education authorities, and the overseers.
An accurate knowledge of the boundaries of the sub-district for which a registrar acts is necessary, in order that only births and deaths occurring in that sub-district may be recorded. Registrars must also adopt some measures by which knowledge can be gained of births and deaths in the sub-district - this is usually done by study of the local newspapers, and by inquiries of doctors, midwives, and people who come to give information of the births and deaths of their relatives. A further duty is the collection at the end of each quarter from the churches and chapels in the sub-district of the certified copies of marriages recorded at those buildings during the quarter.
Census year is a busy one for registrars, who will find their work considerably increased. The sub-district has to be mapped out into enumeration districts, and a staff of enumerators engaged who have to be instructed in their duties, and whose work has to be supervised.
The conditions of work in a country sub-district differ somewhat from those of a registrar in a town sub-district. These rural sub-districts often embrace a large and scattered area, and in order to suit the convenience of the inhabitants of the outlying parishes a registrar has to provide "registration stations at places in the sub-district, at which attendance at specified hours has to be given for registration purposes." This often necessitates the keeping or hiring of a horse and trap - a fact which requires consideration when calculating the value of the post.
Registrars are not salaried officials, but derive their remuneration entirely from various fees. For the sake of easy reference a few of these fees are set out hereunder in tabular form:
Nature of Duty
For each of the first 20 entries of birth or death registered in each quarter
For every other entry of birth or death
For registering a birth after 3 months and before 12 months
For registering a birth after 12 months
For an ordinary certificate of birth or death • •• •• • •
For collecting quarterly returns of marriages from each church and chapel in the sub-district
For correcting certain errors in the register books
If one takes as an example of the first item in the table, the work of a registrar in an average size town sub-district in which, say, 400 births and 300 deaths would probably be registered during a quarter, it will be seen that the fees for the entries made amount in one quarter to £38.
These, however, are but a few of the methods by which a registrar earns an income. The returns to which reference is made in the first part of this article are all paid for - generally at the rate of 2d. for each return and 2d. for each entry in the return. The sale of certificates under the Friendly Society, Elementary Education, and Factory and Workshop Acts - for which the fees are Is. or 6d. - also form a large part of the registrar's takings. It will be obvious that a registrar's emoluments depend on the size, and still more on the population, of the sub-district. Some of the sub-districts in the large towns provide a registrar with a very comfortable income.
These brief remarks will serve to show that the post is one worth holding, and that the duties are such as can be easily mastered and carried out by women. Indeed, departmental experience proves that the work of the women registrars is quite as good as, and in many cases better than, that of their male colleagues. A point that lends attraction to the post is that, as registrars have specified hours for registration purposes, the time not taken up by those duties can be taken up by other work.
Women are at present debarred for some reason from holding the post of registrar of marriages, but mayhap in time that barrier will be removed, and yet one more avenue of employment thrown open for women.