Spreading the Word about Stamps on Documents

Family Tree Magazine (the UK magazine, @familytreemag on Facebook)  has recently launched a Facebook group, Family Tree Academy.  A member asked a question about duty stamps on documents from the United States of America, which indicate that tax had been paid.  Editor Helen Tovey noted that duty stamps were also used on British birth, marriage and death certificates and wanted to know when this was normal practice.

Reading the Facebook post was a déjà-vu moment for me.  I was just thinking, ‘I blogged about that’, when lo, there in the answers was a link to my blog post, A Blogging Collaboration Leads to the Answer.

Family Tree Academy post on duty stamps

Family Tree Academy post on duty stamps

The use of revenue stamps on UK civil registration certificates spans the period from 1870 to 1949.  There’s a story behind reaching this conclusion.  Back in 2012-2013, I wrote a series on marriages in my family to celebrate my parent’s 50th anniversary, including Stamp duty and authenticity of legal documents.  I had identified the commencement of the use of revenue stamps, but Amy Sell’s blog asked when the practice ceased.  Comments on both blogs narrowed down the date range, which guided me to the relevant law, the Finance Act of 1949.

The story is not yet over.  The question of when stamps were used for US vital record certificates has been raised.  Contributors have started exploring answers.  I suspect that it may vary between states.  Do you know the answer? Do pop along to the group and add to the discussion.


© Sue Adams 2017

2 Comments on “Spreading the Word about Stamps on Documents”

  1. Peter Calver says:

    When I was younger there had to be stamps on receipts, even if all you’d done was to pay your gas bill (which in our case meant paying a visit to the North Thames Gas showroom), and there were also pre-printed stamps on cheques – I think they cost 3d each. One of the more interesting quirks that has also disappeared in the intervening years is the duty on playing cards – each pack used to be sealed with duty-paid sticker.

    As I collected stamps as a boy I frequently tore them of documents – goodness knows what damage I did through my ignorance!


    • Sue Adams says:

      I’ve certainly seen stamps on receipts and the observant will see them on many other documents. A wide array of legal documents and duties were applied over time. The exact duration of any particular tax will be in the legislation somewhere, but the annual budget Finance Bills are a good starting point. The playing card tax smacks of a duty on potential gambling.



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