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| No. 19. ] REPORT of the Committee on State Affairs in favor of a law for the
Registration of Marriages, Births and Deaths, in the State of Michigan.
The committee on State Affairs, to whom was referred the various petitions which have been presented, praying for the passage of an act requiring a Registry of Marriages, Births and Deaths within this State, have had that subject under consideration, and beg leave to submit the following report:
A law for the registration of Marriages has now a place upon our Statute book. But so imperfect is this law in some of its features, that it has been almost wholy neglected or disregarded, by those entrusted with the duty of carrying out its provisions, though subject to a heavy penalty for such neglect. So little attention has been paid to it that the records in the Clerk's office of the county of Wayne—the most populous county in the State—show, as we are informed, that only 419 marriages were recorded in that office for the
1856. In some cases the distance of the parties from the county seat may account for a neglect to comply with the law; in others, disinclination on the part of the clergymen solemnizing the marriage, to demand the legal fee required to be paid for recording the marriage, under the Registration Act. But whatever the causes, they are alike injurious in their results. There should be required a better reason than either of these, or any other which is believed to exist, for disregarding a law so eminently calculated to guard the interests of community by rendering perpetual the evidence of the marriage and family relation. It is to be presumed that similar neglect prevails in other portions of the State. It is to remedy the defects of the law so as hereafter to compel a more general compliance with it, and to couple with it a provision also requiring a careful and faithful registry of all the births and marriages in the State, that the action of the Legislature is now required.
The beneficial result of a uniform and general system of registration of Marriages, Births and Deaths has been (fully realized by many years of experience in several States of the Union. The law has been as strictly and uniformly enforced in such States as any other statute. Wherever it has been longest in operation and most generally enforced, there its advantages are most obvious, and its requirements most popular.
A very natural and laudable desire exists even amongst the citizens of our republican country to known something of their ancestry, and not alone from a feeling of mere curiosity, but often as a matter affecting their material and pecuniary, as well as their moral interests and affections. Questions, too, in this ever-changing age, are constantly arising in communities and families, as to the age of individuals, upon the solution of which, may depend many important interests and rights, political, social and pecuniary, all of which can be easily solved throngh the information to be procured from an efficient registry. Township officers would also be materially assisted in determining vexatious questions as to the settlement and support of paupers, and would be better enabled to avoid expensive litigation growing out of that subject. The equitable descert and distribution of the estates of intestates would be more certainly secured, and the prompt and more certain identification of individuals, wken from similarity of names or other causes, it would otherwise be difficult, would be another important benefit. The progress of population for purposes of political economy, developing the operations
of certain fixed laws relative to the subject, could be ascertained and defined at stated periods by the proposed measure.
Considerations equally cogent, would seem to require a similar registration of births and deaths. Statistics of mortality, showing the extent and causes of deaths in different localities, have been demonstrated by the experience of those States and countries where such a law exists, as of the first importance in many respects. In determining whether death in certain cases, results from natural causes or otherwise, whether by disease or violence, murder or accident, it has been frequently found of the greatest moment in the trial of important causes in the courts.
For ascertaining the relative number of deaths occurring in the various sections of this state, and their causes, and by comparing the numbers in certain given localitiss, eliciting inquiry as to any disparity that may exist, whether it is caused by stagnant water, or a violation of any of the other laws of health, thus suggesting the remedy to be applied for removing disease, an act for registering deaths would be found of great value. Much information would also be elicited as to the influence of occupation upon health, in regard to hereditary taint, such as consumption, scrofula, &c., and would show the urgent necessity of endeavoring to remove such cause when within the reach of medical science; and it would do much, too, to awaken the public to the necessity of preventing the introduction of pestilential diseases, a premonition of which
may be afforded by the record of increased deaths from maladies usually accompanying fatal epidemics. Of the facilities it would afford for the collection of information as to the usual and physical causes of mortality with a view to the use of the necessary means for their eradication or amelioration, we need not speak. This consideration of the subject will suggest itself to the mind of every intelligent man.
Statistics of registration in various European, as well as in those States in which the experiment bas been tested, show that both in different localities and different occupations, the difference has been very great in the destruction of human life. They have thus been led to adopt measures for an equalization, so far as the improvement of the sanitary condition of the country can produce that result; and already with the happiest effect by the prolongation of life in a very perceptible degree.
A similar system in this state can be made to answer a