Birth and death certificates: Witnesses, their role


If you do, how do you record the witnesses indicated on the birth and death certificates? Or more exactly, what do you think of the fact that they are not in fact the witnesses of the event but of its administrative recording.

If the question may seem absurd, I’ve been asking myself it several times, especially when I encounter acts that were not done on the very day of the event but a few days later, which seems even more obvious.

If the declarer of said event is indeed to be linked to the event since he declares it and therefore fully has his place as such (which in Gramps takes the form of the sharing of the event between the newborn or the deceased and the one who declares this event with the role of declarer), the witnesses themselves seem to me only linked to the declaration of this event in the civil status of the place; they are witnesses that so and so declared the birth or death of such and such another at that time in that place.

I tell myself that it is therefore more of an administrative act of declaration of birth or death that they are the witnesses rather than of the event itself (unlike the godparents who have a role in the event for example).

If I have always recorded them in the same way as the declarer, that is to say by sharing the event with them by giving them the role of witness, that tickles me more and more, hence this question.

PS: I have not included the weddings in this post but while writing it I also ask myself the question while sensing it perhaps different (the same type of role as that of the godfathers / godmothers for the baptism for example ??).

Thank you for your answers to this existential question :slight_smile:

Very good question. In gramps we are supposed to register events. I think we register evidence of events of a person. The evidence can be an official written report like a declaration of birth, marriage or death, or text in a book or paper, or a verbal report of a person, or a memory of ourselves, everything with its own measure of reliability. And indeed the declaration of a birth is an event of its own with its own specific witnesses, and not so very long ago was the father not supposed to witness the birth of his own children, so when he made the declaration of the birth, let’s say together with his neighbour, both would not have been witness of the birth, but the father reported the event and his neighbour supported the declaration.
I consider Gramps as a superior genealogy program after having used some other programs, and I prefer an event based program over a person based program, but in my opinion the best program would be evidence based. Simply because when you do your research in an archive or you interview a family member you will never find your great-great-grandma nor her birth but only some evidence about her existence in the past or of the events that are recorded or remembered.

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I would be tempted to create a custom role like “document witness,” “certificate witness,” or “record witness.” It would be used on other document types too.

How about “Informant”. It is the terminology I see on Death certificates. Not so much on other documents but the principle would hold true.

Informant and witness typically have different definitions. The informant provides the information being recorded and the witness watches something happening. But that is a good idea. I’d look at instructions on the form (it might take some digging to find them) or the laws at the time the certificate was filled out to see what the witness’s task was–maybe acting as an informant.

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I always link them to the document where they are mentioned, with their role in that document.

Remember that the legal or administrative part of an event can take place at a different time than the ceremony itself, so basically there are two different sub-events for the main event.

  • Ceremony
  • Administrative or legal

And for some types of Events, there are even more sub-events that are important…

Hum. Back to sub-events. Good idea.


I really do think about what I suggest so that it can benefit as many users as possible…



An export to a more universal format used by other research tools and researchers in broader area than genealogy…

Those two things = More Researchers looking at Gramps
More researchers = more people with Python Knowledge = more People to help develop Gramps to an even greater tool…

It’s kind of simple logic :slight_smile:

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