There was some excitement in the Wilton household recently, as Mrs W succeeded in tracing part of her family tree back to the 1500s. The bizarre thing was that, all those generations ago, the baptismal records showed that some of her ancestors were baptised in the same town (and therefore probably the very church) as the most recent generation. Given the extremely peripatetic routes by which Mrs W and I even ended up living in England, let alone Wiltshire, that was quite a discovery.
Of course, records of death, marriage, birth and baptism are a key part of that search, and the extent to which they are now being put online is a factor in how far back you can search with ease.
As one John Hunt is discovering, that record is something it can be quite hard to amend. Mr Hunt was baptised as a child, but gradually became disenchanted with his allotted religion, and withdrew from it before the point at which he would have been expected to convert his baptism into a confirmation of faith. Now he wants to annul the oaths made on his behalf at his baptism, and have the record amended accordingly.
Unfortunately for Mr Hunt, the Church of England appears reluctant to ‘qualify’ the original record. Its Council of Archbishops apparently responded that ‘the Church of England did not regard baptism as a sign of membership, so any amendment to the record would be unnecessary’.
In terms of identity management, this paints an interesting picture. According to the episcopal response above, the baptismal record doesn’t signify affiliation (“is a member of”), so the ‘issuing party’ won’t change it. And yet it ascribes a number of attributes to Mr Hunt which he no longer considers to be true.
As those attributes relate to Mr Hunt’s religious beliefs (or absence of them), they presumably qualify as Sensitive Personal Information under the Data Protection Act – in which case he would be within his rights to insist that the record held about him is inaccurate and needs to be amended.