In Great Britain, before 1538, the recording of births, marriages & deaths wasn’t a requirement of the church or state; though a few parish priests may have noted down details of some baptisms, marriages & burials.
In 1530s Henry VIII’s, as part of the English Reformation, split from Church of Rome and became head of the Church of England. In 1538, Henry’s vicar-general Thomas Cromwell issued a decree that all parish priests had to keep a register of all baptisms, marriages & burials. Only a few of the parishes started to keep a register from 1538 and it took many years or even decades before all the parishes started to keep the register.
A baptism/christening ceremony was normally performed in the parish church within a few weeks of birth, commonly around 4 weeks. If the child was very weak when born and wasn’t expected to survive then the baptism ceremony was often performed at home. If the child survived then the christening ceremony was performed in the parish church. The church recorded dates of religious ceremonies ie. the baptism/christening date and not the date of birth, though it was common for some parish priests to note the date of birth in the margin of the parish register.
In 1598 it was ordered that all parish priests were to send copies of the baptism, marriage and burials register to the local bishop of the diocese. A diocese or bishopric is a collection of parishes under the supervision of a bishop. The copies of the parish record entries were known as Bishop Transcripts (BT).
Between 1642 & 1659, the turbulent times caused by the English civil war and the subsequent Commonwealth resulted in the parish registers not being maintained.
In 1711 it was decreed that the pages of registers were to be ruled and numbered. This was generally ignored and it took many decades before all parishes used ruled and numbered pages.
In 1733 entries in the parish register has to be made in English and not in Latin which was still a common practice.
In 1752 Great Britain and its colonies moved from the Julian calendar system to the Gregorian calendar system so the 1st Jan 1752 became the start of the legal & business year. Previously the 25 March or Lady Day, was the start of the year.
In 1812 in order to standardise the way events were recorded pre-printed registers were issued for separate baptism, marriage & burial registers.
From the 3rd quarter 1837 the state (GRO) took over the registration of Birth, Deaths & Marriages.