I have a copy of a Queensland Birth Certificate for a different individual issued in 2010 for a birth that occurred in 1959.

For the name of the child, there is no surname.

For previous children of relationship, no surname is listed.

The father has a surname shown.

The mother has a first name and a former surname only.

Would this be a mistake by the Registrar-General at time of copying, or do some Queensland Birth Certificates not have this detail.

Can we be certain that any of the children took the father's name?

Can we be certain the mother's former surname was her maiden name?

  • 2
    Have you been able to sight the original record or have the Registrar-General check the accuracy of your copy?
    – George
    Jan 13 '13 at 9:54
  • Do you know if the father and mother were married? Do you know if the mother had previously been married to anyone else? Jan 13 '13 at 20:08

My Queensland birth certificate, obtained when I began work (so approximately 20 years after my birth in the 1950s), lists only my given names. The printed instruction on the form reads Name and maiden name of mother and is completed accordingly.

What I regard as "my" surname appears only as the name of my father. I cannot comment on how Other issue were usually treated (as it is blank on mine -- an eldest child).

Nothing about the form you describe sounds odd in my experience.

As a former public servant, I suggest that the Registrar-General who signed the copy you have, would be mortally offended at the suggestion of an error at the time of copying. He certified "that the above is a true copy of an entry in a register". They tended to be picky about what they signed. So if there is variation in the format of the copies, it would reflect variation in the entries made in the register.

Be aware that the (short-form) Extract from Birth Entry (which was cheaper to obtain) does not list details of the parents but appends the father's surname to the child's given names.

Can we be certain ...? No.


Alone, the answer to both questions would be no. With corroborative evidence like school reports, personal account, addressed mail etc, it could be included as part of a conclusion.


The surname is not given next to the child's forename, but the father's surname and mother's maiden names are given. The common naming practice in Queenland in 1959 was almost certainly for the child to take the father's name, unless illegitimate. That the father's is name on the birth certificate suggests legitimacy (but you should check the curentlaw and law applicable at the time of th birth). So, it is reasonable to conclude that the child took the father's surname. Other evidence will likely corroborate this, but in a small proportion of cases might tell another story.

Birth certificates provide strong evidence of identity because legal penalties discourage the giving of inaccurate information or falsifying information on certified copies. Consequently, they are usually among the most reliable sources.

However, informants could lie and mistakes could occur, but these are not usual.

  • 3
    Your comments concerning the inference of legitimacy are likely to be misleading. In Queensland (at least) it was both lawful and not uncommon in practice for a man to acknowledge his paternity of a child born outside marriage. So while the absence of a named father may suggest illegitimacy, the converse is not necessarily true. Having the names of two parents on the certificate enables the next search for a record of their marriage (if any). It does not remove the need for that search.
    – Fortiter
    Jan 13 '13 at 23:19

In the general case, a single record cannot constitute "proof" by any definition of the word. You need other evidence that corroborates it. Although it may be rare, I have encountered certificates with both accidental and deliberate errors on. For instance:

1) My g-g-grandmother's birth eluded everyone until I realised it was indexed under the surname Jessam instead of Jesson. However, on getting a copy of the certificate, I found this was an error on the certificate itself rather than just the index.

2) While I don't have a genuine example of a birth certificate with deliberate errors, I have several examples of marriage certificates and baptism records where the name of the father for someone who was illegitimate was given as that of a grandfather, uncle, cousin, and even a non-existent name formed from a mother's current partner and her previous married name.

  • The examples of "deception" in naming a father go to the heart of our expectations of what a record should show. Would we be concerned if someone named an adoptive father on a marriage certificate? What about a foster father? In the the situation where the mother's father raised the child as if it were his own, why should the (biological) grandfather not be acknowledged as the father figure? I believe how you answer these questions points to the fuzzy border between genealogy and family history.
    – Fortiter
    Jan 15 '13 at 1:53
  • Of course, the might also be deception when a person recognises that the community looks down on someone who does not know the name of his or her father and so it is rational to invent a person to fill that role, whether or not that action is "illegal".
    – Fortiter
    Jan 15 '13 at 1:57

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