Stamp duty on birth, marriage and death certificates

One of the first pieces of advice I was given when I started researching my family history was to ask family members for photocopies of any original documents they may have, such as original birth, marriage and death certificates.

This week I realised that this doesn’t just save money when it comes to ordering copies of certificates from the General Register Office (GRO), but also that the originals can teach me something I would never have learnt from the GRO copies.

While organising some of my family history documents, I noticed that the birth and marriage certificates my nan has given me include what looks like a postage stamp in the bottom right corner with a signature over the top. Here’s an example from a 1929 marriage certificate, featuring a George V stamp:

George V revenue stamp on a marriage certificate


Following a bit of google research and this handy article on Sue Adams’ Family Folklore blog, I now know that these are actually examples of revenue stamps which were used to pay stamp duty, a tax on documents.

Although I was already aware of stamp duty, I didn’t realise that it had been paid with a physical stamp in the past. Had I not asked my family for copies of these original certificates, I may never have discovered this as the GRO copies don’t include this detail.

Sue Adams’ article states that these ‘Postage and Revenue’ stamps were introduced in 1881, though stamp duty had been imposed on the registration of births, marriages and deaths from 1783.

What I have yet to establish is when the practice of attaching a stamp to certificates died out. The latest example I have in my possession is from 1948. I’d be interested to hear from anyone who has a later example or knows the date this practice stopped.

6 Responses to “Stamp duty on birth, marriage and death certificates”

  1. familyfolklore Says:

    Good Question! The practice would have ceased for one of two reasons: a change in the way the tax was collected, or the abolition of the tax. If the latter, the repeal is probably in a Finance Bill (that’s the usually annual bill passed after the budget). I don’t have a later stamped certificate than Amy’s dated 1948, and my earliest one without a stamp is an original birth certificate from 1956. So, that narrows the cessation of tax stamps down to between 1948 and 1956. Anyone have original certificates between these dates, with or without stamps to narrow the date range further?

  2. Amy Says:

    Thanks, Sue! I’m trying to get my hands on a copy of a 1954 birth certificate at the moment, so may be able to narrow that date range a little more soon. Stamped or not stamped? I’ll let you know!

  3. Amy Says:

    The 1954 birth certificate was… not stamped! So, that narrows the date the practice of attaching stamps stopped down to 1948 – 1954.

  4. cj Says:

    Hi Amy, I’m not sure if you have found your answer yet but I’ve looked through my family history certificates and can narrow the date range a bit further. I have a UK death certificate dated 8 Jan 1949 with a stamp stuck on signed. Also a UK birth certificate dated 6 Feb 1950 which has an empty printed (stamp sized) box with the words ‘stamp to be affixed here and cancelled’. Printed over that are the word ‘Exempt from stamp duty’ so no stamp! Hope this helps.

  5. Amy Says:

    That’s really useful information. Thanks very much for sharing, cj!

  6. familyfolklore Says:

    And the answer is..

    Thanks to the collaborators

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