Civil Registrations

From July 1837, provided the event was registered with the local registrar*. These include registrations of British Citizens abroad.

The GRO Index is arranged by event, then by year and quarter. Within each quarter the index runs alphabetically by surname, then first names. The birth indexes after about 1910 give the mother's maiden name. Marriages from that time period begin to give the name of the spouse. Death indexes from all dates give the age. Beyond that the only other information is the registration district and the volume and page number in which the entry can be found. No other information is given in the index. The only way to obtain more precise details is to buy a copy of the certificate.

*Some events were not registered, especially in the early decades. Some entries were not correctly indexed.

The GRO Indexes are available to view at The National Archives, most County Record Offices, some local libraries and LDS Research Centres. These indexes (or parts of them) are also available to view on line, either free of charge at Free BMD or on subscription sites such as Ancestry and Find My Past.

Local BMD: This links to various websites which have their own (county) indexes. Many of these are far better than the GRO Index, but not all the country is covered.

Below are examples of birth, marriage and death certificates.


Birth Certificate                     Death Certificate

Local registrars hold the originals of the Birth and Death registers but they normally do not photocopy. They extract and then you have to contend with any mistakes. ONS/FRC system gives you the photocopy of their copy, and they don't know what the mistakes might be. If you think there is a mistake on the local registrar's extraction ask...they will recheck for you.

Marriage Certificate

Marriages are slightly different. The local registrar and ONS hold copies. The venue holds the original. Some of these have been filmed. Many local registrars still cannot handle your application for marriage certificates where the venue is unknown. They are filed by venue and they may have 100 books to check and they can get a bit annoyed about it. You have the perfect right to ask, but you also have to be prepared for the long wait. London is particularly bad for this.

If you get a certificate from either the local registrar or ONS and it is incorrect and you have clearly stated a proviso, then return it and ask for a refund or the correct certificate in its place. You do not have to pay for their mistakes. You do have to pay for your own mistakes though. Proviso is a double edged sword and you are advised by a leading genealogist (not me) never to put a proviso. I tend to use a proviso where I am sure of my information, initially, and then if the registrar does not issue, I double check and if I find nothing else I ask again without a proviso.

ONS has a facility where you can order certificates on-line. You can use a debit/credit card and they will send them to anywhere in the world for no extra charge. They tend to be able to issue more quickly than local regsitrars but check dispatch times when you order. You need to register, which is free and then log-in. Click here to go to the order page.

Some local registrars are now charging extra for certificates issued to you in person, presumably because they have to stop work to attend to your enquiry. It might pay you to apply by post in these cases. Additionally, although the certificate fees are set nationally you may find that some local registrars are now charging an administration fee on credit/debit card orders.

Copyright by Sherry Landa & British-Jewry. All rights reserved.
This document last modified Wednesday, 11-Apr-2018 14:35:12 BST

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