Father's birth records can't be found

Dear Mrs Macaulay,

My dad, born in 1955, has his original birth certificate, but when he went to do a search to provide an official document they cannot find him on the system. This is impossible – my dad was born in Jamaica, has school records, has a Jamaican passport and ID. It means I can't get my citizenship. We've done two or three searches now and nothing comes up. How can it be that you simply cannot be found? What should we do?

Thank you for your letter about your father's dilemma, in that he has been informed that no record of his birth has been found in the records at the Registrar General's Department (RGD) when he went to obtain a certified copy of his birth certificate and a search was done. You conclude that this situation means that you cannot obtain your Jamaican citizenship. This is very unfortunate and would certainly cause serious consequences for him and his children.

You say that he has his original birth certificate. This I understand must be in the mode of the old form of birth certificates which used to be issued, because the Birth Registration Form which appears in the First Schedule of the Registration (Birth and Deaths) Act, Form A, replaced the old form pursuant to L N 57/1981. This year, 1981, is many years after the year of your father's birth, which I place in 1967. I, therefore, conclude that your father's original birth certificate was in the old form, which was changed, and the current, very colourful certificate began to be used in its place in order to ensure that instances of false or forged certificates were curtailed.

I am not implying that your father's original birth certificate is false or a forgery. There is clearly a serious problem because you say that you and your father have done two or three searches and still no record of his birth records were found in the General Register of Births. The Act provides that registration of any birth should be done by the registrar filling up one of the forms on one page of his or her book and on the counterfoil, the information required by the Act, to be given of the birth as appears in Form A of the first schedule and by having the form and counterfoil signed by the informant in his or her presence. Then the registrar, during the first three days of each month, must separate the completed counterfoils and post them to the registrar general, who must then ensure that these forms are safely kept in the registrar general's office in the manner approved by the minister. The Act provides for the safe custody of birth register forms by both the district registrars and by the registrar general, who must examine them and check that they match with the counterfoils which had been sent by post by the district registrars.

Like all done by us humans, accidents, mistakes, and losses occur and someone's birth record's counterfoil may not have been secured in the general register. Since you say you and your father did two or three searches, which I assume was a general search and which would have been done of the general registrar, I wonder whether you and he requested that the Civil Status Register also be searched. This register is that which contains records or transcripts of records of births, baptisms, marriages, deaths, and burials.

Anyway, you say that the failure to find your father's birth records means that you cannot obtain your Jamaican citizenship. This is very serious, a very serious consequence. It means that your right to obtain your citizenship, which is a fundamental human right, and if the situation is not rectified your right will continue to be violated. I know that the registrar general has the legal authority to, even after a birth has exceeded 10 years, to authorise the registration of such a birth. I know that the RGD has registered adults — middle aged and senior citizens — who have encountered problems in proving their birth dates.

I suggest, therefore, that you and your father go back to the the headquarters in Twickenham Park and take with you your father's original birth certificate, his school records, his Jamaican passport, and his ID, all of which he must mention in his application for the registrar general to exercise authority for his birth to be registered, and with a statutory declaration in which he must clearly state the facts of his birth, and all that appears in his original birth certificate, and the problems he has encountered about the lack of his birth records, which he has been informed have not been found in the records at the office. He should also have statutory declarations of two other people who can depone to the facts of his birth and details of his mother and father or as is the fact.

I, however, suggest that you go to the RGD and speak with a legal officer there to find out if my suggestion above will be accepted and would result in the registration or whether an application ought to be made to the Supreme Court for an order that the registrar general effect it. If the legal officer informs you and your father that he can proceed, as I suggest above, with the application and statutory declarations (which is provided for in the Act, but it does not specify a circumstance as your father's but does grant authority to the registrar general to authorise quite late registrations), please have your father obtain the services of a lawyer to prepare the application and statutory declaration for him and his two witnesses.

It cannot be the case that your father's birth registration is left unresolved, even without the clear legal authority given to the registrar general as the Supreme Court has inherent powers to ensure that justice is done, even in instances when no legislation or precedent exists.

But please approach the legal office at the RGD and explain your father's dilemma and ask what to do and even ask whether the situation can be rectified by his and two witnesses' statutory declarations, especially as what occurred can in no way be said to be his fault or responsibility as the counterfoil of his birth details could have been lost when posted or within the department or that the then registrar, who was responsible to obtain and secure and send in his birth details did not do so and this fact was never discovered by the RGD. I hope that I have assisted to proffer some clarity and ideas for resolving your father's missing birth records and lack of his birth registration.

All the very best to you and your father.

Margarette May Macaulay is an attorney-at-law, Supreme Court mediator, notary public, and women's and children's rights advocate. Send questions via e-mail to allwoman@jamaicaobserver.com; or write to All Woman, 40-42 1/2 Beechwood Avenue, Kingston 5. All responses are published. Mrs Macaulay cannot provide personal responses.

Margarette Macaulay

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