The "Norasearch" Diary - by Andrew Conway

Wednesday 6 May 1999 (Part One)

A busy few days of outlines, treatments, CVs and production meetings means my visit to the Register Office is delayed.

Danny has the afternoon off and comes with me, a little bemused by the whole thing. The Register Office is a sixties shoebox construction, just a stone’s throw from the library, looking out over Centenary Square.

We go inside and I fill out a form detailing what little I know, pay my £6.50, and watch the clerk roll it all up in a plastic tube that goes hurtling up the pipe, off to some other part of the labyrinth. She tells me to wait as it’ll only be twenty minutes. I’d expected it to take days.

Birth Cert.We sit and watch others coming in for their marriage certificates, surprised that so many people bother these days. I notice how pleasant all the staff are. Finally, the tube pops back down and the clerk calls my name out.

It’s in my hands and I read it straight away. The first shock is the address, the second is the spelling of the name.

What I have is not the real thing, nor even a facsimile of it, but a copy handwritten by the Deputy Superintendent Registrar (somewhere at the end of that tube), copied from the actual record that only he has access to.

There are ten information columns on the birth certificate and above them are two panels.

The first panel reads: Registration District: Kings Norton.

The second reads: 1908. Birth in the Sub-district of Kings Norton in the County of Worcester.

COLUMN 1 (is split into two panels)

(I think this means the sixty-second birth registered in that particular log book.)

'When and where born'
Eighteenth December 1907 12 Alcester Road Moseley Kings Norton U.D.
(Danny, with his vast experience of local government, tells me the U.D. stands for Urban District. This is the larger Kings Norton, not the tiny place it is now: the district that became part of Birmingham only in 1911, and included Moseley.)


'Name, if any'
Honorah Mary
(Convinced that there had been some kind of copying error, I returned to Register Office the following day and had the forename checked. They confirmed that it definitely is Honorah and not Honora. This was how Amy Parker registered her daughter.)




'Name, and surname of father'
Robert William PARKER


'Name, surname and maiden surname of mother'
Amy Lilian PARKER formerly BLAKEMORE


'Occupation of father'
Chartered Accountant
(This was already known in the general Parker-Hulme literature, but I have never yet been able to ascertain the source for it. I'm intrigued as to whether Robert Parker was a self-employed freelance accountant, or whether he was a pen pusher for a large firm and, if so, which firm?)


'Signature, description, and residence of informant'
Amy Lilian Parker Mother 12 Alcester Road Moseley


'When registered'
Thirty First January 1908


'Signature of registrar'
C.T. Davis (Registrar)
(This is the registrar who used to sit at the end of the tube, not the current one)


'Name entered after registration'
This column is scored through.
(It is for a forename given to a child in baptism that may be different to that in Column 2. The parents have 12 months from the date of registration to present their Certificate of Name Given in Baptism and have it entered in Column 10. The Parker's obviously did not avail themselves of this opportunity).

I’m as impressed with the Birmingham Register Office as Juliet was of Pauline's scars! An old friend had led me to believe that the place was virtually Kafkaesque, but I was greeted by a smiling commissionaire, and then the certificate was handed over to me so quickly. I come to the conclusion that the place is more Capraesque!

Copyright © 1999 Andrew Conway. All Rights Reserved.