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Registration of Births and Death

The compulsory registration of births and deaths in what is today known as Guyana was introduced by an Act of 1801, when the country consist of only the counties of Demerara and Essequibo, this act of 27th January 1801 only provided for registration among free persons. The Act was apparently not strictly observed and in 1812 the Acting Governor and the Court of Policy ordered a republication of the Act. A new legislative effort to enforce registration was made thirty years later through “An ordinance to regulate the duties of population in British Guiana”, but registration remained inadequate all through the first two-thirds of the nineteenth century and improved only after the of “The Registration of births and deaths ordinance 1869”. This ordinance has been amended approximately twenty times up to 1985.

In September 1953, in addition to the birth information, parents were required to provide :- Order of Present birth and age of the parents to the registrars when effecting a birth registration.

 It is anticipated that there will be a further amendment to Chapter 44:01 to legalize the new system of registration on the 1st July 1987.

The ordinance of 1868 (retained in Chapter 44:01) set up a General Register Office under the Registrar General and provided for the division of the country into twenty six (26) Registration Districts and one hundred and thirty five (135) divisions. Registrars were appointed by the Minister of Home Affairs on the recommendation of the Registrar General and the permanent secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs. The building where registration was conducted had the appropriate notice placed on them. It enforced the registration of still births and the certification of the causes of death. The ordinance requires the parent or parents, or the occupier of the house in which the birth occurred, or the nurse or anyone in attendance at a birth to give notice of such birth within twenty one (21) days and to supply within three (3) months any relevant information the Registrar may request. Similar obligation applies in the area of death. Someone present at the death or in attendance during the last illness of the decease or the occupier of the house in which the death occurred has to give notice of the death to the Registrar of the District within seven (7) days.

The registrars were by law instructed to submit to the General Register Office in the months January, April, July and October through copies of the entries of births and deaths occurring in his/her district.

He/she was also instructed to bring into the General Register Office or send by reliable messenger the Registers of births and deaths when completed so that new ones could be issued by the Deputy Registrar General or Registrar General.

Most of the Registrars then employed were private citizens some of them were attached to Health Centres. Some of the difficulties encountered in Registration of births and deaths and in the transmission of Returns were:

  •  Transportation and travel difficulties especially in the interior regions with the postal facilities being inadequate.
  •  Registrars through threaten with fines do not always submit their returns on time.
  •  Mistakes made by registrars are only discovered by the registrants when they apply at the General Register Office after a number of years.
  •  Registrars giving registrants certificates (Registrar’s copy) which do not correspond with the entries on the returns or the registers. Often  no entries were made in registers. The applicants were often advised to have late registration done.
  •  Persons had to return to the places of birth when late registrations were to be done, that often involved travelling hundreds of miles, where travelling was difficult.
  •  Deterioration of records because of inadequate or nonexistent preservation facilities and storage thus making the production of certificates impossible.   

As of 1st July 1987, a new system was introduced aimed at replacing both the statistical Bureau and the ministry of Health systems for the collection of information on births and deaths. The new system for registration of births and deaths was designed by the Guyana Management Institute, on contract to the Ministry of Home Affairs under which Ministry, the General Register Office falls. The overall objective was the re-organization and restructuring of the General Register Office as well as the entire system, for the collection of information on Births, Deaths and Marriages and the issuing of the certificates.

Under the new system the country is now into 135 Registration Districts but each district has a Registration centre which is a Health Facility – Hospital. Health Centres further the Registrar at each registration centre is a health worker, doctor, medex, midwife or health visitor. Both the Registration Centres and the Registrars were identified by the Ministry of Health.