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Civil Registration BMDs updated Please add

ProfilePosted byOptionsPost Date


Joy Report 18 Oct 2007 17:06

There have been some changes since this was first posted. :)

Civil Registration of births, marriages and deaths started on 1 July 1837 in England and Wales. This was later expanded in 1927 to also include still births, and adoptions.

For details about the current arrangements check
These pages give you information about how to register a birth or death in England and Wales, how to go about getting married or form a civil partnership, how to obtain a birth certificate, a marriage certificate, a civil partnership certificate or a death certificate, and how to use the services at the Family Records Centre. Please note that although we can make available to you a great many records that will help you trace your family tree, we do not do everything a genealogist might.
These services are provided or overseen by the General Register Office (GRO) which is part of the Office for National Statistics. Some of these services are provided in partnership with other organisations.
The GRO has a responsibility for England and Wales. There are equivalent offices for Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Many local authorities also offer other celebratory services including: naming ceremonies, renewal of vows, commitment ceremonies and civil funerals. For further information please contact your local register office.


Joy Report 18 Oct 2007 17:38

Modernising Civil Registration: overview
In 2001, the Government announced its intention to modernise the way in which we register births and deaths, and give notice to marry. Those proposals were outlined in a White paper: 'Civil Registration: Vital Change' in 2002 and a subsequent Consultation Document in July 2003. The Government decided to use the order-making powers of the Regulatory Reform Act 2001 to change the law.

What happened in 2004
In July 2004, a draft order relating to births and deaths, and the structure of the local registration service was presented to the Regulatory Reform Committee in the Commons and the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee in the Lords. In December 2004, the Regulatory Reform Committees concluded that it was an inappropriate use of the order-making powers of the Regulatory Reform Act 2001.

2005 update
Following this decision, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, then Stephen Timms MP, decided that he would not put forward a draft Regulatory Reform Order to reform marriage law. In November 2005, the consultation document 'Registration Modernisation' was published reinforcing the Government's commitment to the modernisation of the local registration service. This paper also sets out how other changes proposed in the 2002 White Paper 'Civil Registration: Vital Change' are to be progressed. Later that month, the Registration Service Bill, which seeks to regularise the employment position of registrars whereby they become local authority employees, was introduced into parliament.

In 2006
Following a positive response to the consultation document 'Registration Modernisation', John Healey, Financial Secretary and ONS Minister announced on 25 May that the Government intends to push ahead with the new governance arrangements. For more details and to download relevant documents see Latest news.
On 6 March a web-based system was introduced which enables registrars to record civil partnership registrations online. This system will also be used to enter details of birth, stillbirth and death registrations.

The General Register Office have also embarked on a project to digitise all birth, death and marriage records dating back to 1837. For more detailed information see Digitisation of Vital Events (DoVE).


Joy Report 19 Oct 2007 16:01

Civil registration of birth, marriages and deaths began in England and Wales from 1 July 1837, in Scotland from 1 January 1855, and in Ireland from 1 January 1864. The Family Records Centre holds the indexes to Births, Marriages and Deaths registered in England and Wales. The actual records of births, marriages and deaths for England and Wales are held by the General Register Office (Office for National Statistics) - telephone (+44) 0845 603 7788; email:; website: You can order certificates by telephone, post or email if you have the references; year, quarter, registration district, volume and page number from the indexes.

Scottish registration indexes for births from 1855 to 1906, marriages from 1855 to 1931 and deaths from 1855 to 1956 can be searched online at on a pay per view basis. For records of registration in Ireland and Northern Ireland (after 1922) there are no online indexes. The records are held in the General Register Offices in Dublin and Belfast.

Births, marriages and deaths since 1837
Registration began in England and Wales from 1837 but the onus to register births was on the district registrar not the parents. Some births were not registered at all in this period and you will need to look for baptismal records instead. Marriage records have always been complete, but some entries are missing from the indexes and most deaths have been recorded (though not always under the correct name and sometimes as unknown male/female). Death certificates have been required since 1837 for a legal burial to take place.

Registration indexes are becoming available on the Internet. provides images of the original indexes to search for your references on a pay per view basis. A free, but as yet incomplete, index is being compiled covering 1837 to 1983, which can be accessed at


Joy Report 19 Oct 2007 17:28

Birth Registration

Everyone born in England and Wales on or since 1 July, 1837 should have had their birth registered by the state, which keeps a record of the event in the form of a registration entry. This shows information which an informant - normally the mother or her legal husband - provides to the registrar within six weeks of the birth. The registrar sends to the Registrar-General a copy of each entry at the end of each quarter year.

Thus, there should be in existence two birth entries for each person back to 1 July, 1837 - the original with the Superintendent Registrar of the district where the birth took place, and a copy at the General Register Office.

The birth certificate will tell you: the forename and sex of the child, the place of birth, the father's name and occupation, the mother's name and maiden name, the informant's name and address and the date of birth. The surname of the child (which can be any name the parents choose) has been entered only since 1 April, 1969. Before that date it has to be inferred from the father's surname.

In the case of an illegitimate child, only the mother's name is normally given; before 1875, the mother was allowed to name any man as the father - he was not required to acknowledge paternity. An illegitimate child can now be issued with a birth certificate which gives him or her the surname of either the father or the mother. In order to reduce embarrassment for illegitimate children the so-called 'short' birth certificate was introduced in 1947. It is cheaper to buy than a 'full' certificate, but is of no genealogical value, and has restricted use these days.

Failure to find a birth entry
This happens surprisingly often and there are several reasons why:

Registration in another district - births are registered in the district in which they occur; this may not necessarily be the district in which the parents lived (the nearest hospital may be several miles from the family home, for example). Also, some early registrars were paid on commission, encouraging registration in the wrong district.

Birth not registered - in some parts of the country as many as 15 per cent of all births were not registered during the first decade after 1837. There was no penalty on parents' failing to register until 1875, many believing that registration was not necessary if the child was baptised. In 1844, the Registrar-General complained that thousands were escaping the net. 100% compliance was not achieved until about 1870.

Birth incorrectly indexed - until modern times certificates were handwritten and subsequently indexed by a different registrar, so simple transcription errors were possible. Also, as illiteracy was widespread during the 19th century, registrars had no way of checking the correct spelling of surnames which were often written as they were pronounced: 'Hibbert', for example, might easily be indexed under 'Ibbert'.

Marriage Registration

Since 1 July, 1837, the Registrar-General has had a duty to record all valid marriages in England and Wales, no matter what the form of ceremony involved. Since that date the state, represented by a Superintendent registrar of Marriages, has been able to conduct marriages itself. In the case of civil ceremonies, the recording process is similar to that for births. There are again two entries - one kept locally by the Superintendent Registrar, the other by the Registrar-General.

If the wedding takes place in church, the same will often apply because a registrar is present and both church and civil certificates are completed immediately after the ceremony. The latter is kept by the registrar and a copy sent to the General Register Office. However, registrars have not been present at Church of England, Jewish or Quaker marriages since 1837. In this case an 'Authorised Person' (usually the priest or a member of the congregation) is the sole recorder and sends copies of each marriage to the Superintendent Registrar and the General Register Office.

The marriage certificate will tell you: the date and place of marriage, and for both parties their age, condition, rank or profession, residence, father's name and occupation, and the names and signatures of the bride, groom and witnesses.

Giving one's correct age was not compulsory and, up to the mid-twentieth century, is often given as 'full' (ie over 21). 'Minor' or 'under age' meant between twelve and twenty for a girl, between fourteen and twenty for a boy, until 1929 when the lower age limit was raised to sixteen for both parties.


Joy Report 19 Oct 2007 17:28

Death Registration

Since 1 July, 1837, the recording of deaths in England and Wales is similar to that for births, the main difference being that a death must normally be registered within five days of the event, as opposed to six weeks allowed for births.

The death certificate will tell you: the date and place of death, the name, sex and occupation of the deceased, the cause of death and the informant's name and address. Since 1 April, 1969, the date and place of birth of the deceased, the usual address and the maiden name in the case of a married woman, are also given. Until 1874, entering the cause of death was not a legal requirement and registrars were encouraged to use popular, rather than medical terminology.

Sean Subexpired

Sean Subexpired Report 11 Nov 2007 20:42

>>The Family Records Centre holds the indexes to Births, Marriages and Deaths registered in England and Wales<<

Unfortunately the above statement is no longer true, at the end of October 2007 the FRC transferred the indexes to a storage facility which is not open to the public. I think you can only view them on microfiche or online, which sounds to me like a pain in the butt! Having had numerous problesm finding the correct entries on line I had been saving up a list of queries for the moment I had a chance to get to London again.


mgnv Report 9 Dec 2007 23:37

Statutory registration began 1/1/1855 for Scotland. The best place to go for info is: From there select "What's in the Database" then either A) "Indexes" or (the more interesting) B) "Record Types and Examples" followed by "Statutory Registers" for the overview or by "SR Births" (or "SR Marriages" or "SR Deaths"). On this page, you can see what info was recorded at what date range, and what's available on site (some minor records e.g., births on hovercraft and oil rigs seem to only be in England). Although you can order regular BMD certificates (i.e., certified copies of a register extract) as in England (at a higher price than England), unless you're say applying for a passport, or proving you're a widow or you kid's parent or some such (quasi-) legal use, for genealogical purposes what people buy is an image of the appropriate registery page (or census page), and these cost about a pound a piece.
On the "SR Births" page mentioned above, you can see selected free examples of the births register at various dates, plus a corrected birth and some minor birth registers - naturally, these are always more legible than any record I've been interested in.
The "SR Marriages" and "SR Deaths" pages are similar.


mgnv Report 24 Jun 2009 07:33

Two preceeding statements need amending.
"Civil registration of birth, marriages and deaths began in England and Wales from 1 July 1837, in Scotland from 1 January 1855, and in Ireland from 1 January 1864."
"For records of registration in Ireland and Northern Ireland (after 1922) there are no online indexes. The records are held in the General Register Offices in Dublin and Belfast."

Actually, civil registration of non-RC marriages began in 1845, and was extended to all marriages in 1864. At:;r=1
one can search the GRO(I) index thru 1921 for all Ireland, and for 1922-1958 for Eire only. Like Scotland, one can buy uncertified copies of the registers at a reduced price. See:


Gez Report 24 Jun 2009 14:02



Joy Report 25 Mar 2010 11:56

With updates - for new readers


mgnv Report 1 Jun 2011 18:27

You can see examples of English BMD certs near end at:

The document also lists the minor registers hel by the GRO, and the coverage dates for the IOM and CHI.

On a separate note, the older Irish BMDs are the same as English ones.
I don't know what the modern Irish certs are like for either Ireland.


mgnv Report 6 May 2012 05:33

Re Joy's post 17:28 19/10/2007

Marriage Registration
If the wedding takes place in church...etc.

The wedding normally had to take place in a building registered for the purpose.
(A special licence was needed for exceptions.)
As Joy says, from 1837, Jews Quakers and CofE were authorized to keep registers,
and if a non-conformist marr took place the registrar had to attend to record the marr in his rego.
After 1898, other non-conformists were authorized to keep registers (excl RCs until the 1980s).
These registers, when full, are deposited in some archive, usually the county records office.


One can buy BMD certs from the GRO, the local rego office, (and the church if the marr is in their current rego).
Some local offices have their indexes (at least partially) online - see

Most folks know one doesn't have to go to the main district office to rego a birth or death.
For instance, if I live in Lancashire RD, I don't have to go to Preston - I can go to:
Accrington, Burnley, Chorley, Fleetwood, Lancaster, Lytham, Ormskirk, or Preston
These are the current subdistricts, and each has a register. When this rego's full, it's sent to Preston. So what we find at Preston is a set of regos for each of the current (and former) subdistricts. Sim for marrs, there are copies for each church, plus the registrar's own rego.

At the end of each quarter, the superintendent for the RD collects together the copies from each subdistrict registrar, and from each authorized person, stacks them together and ships them to the GRO, who paginate, index and bind them into a volume, along with all the other Lancashire districts (Blackburn, Blackpool,..., Wigan).

Clearly, to locate an entry at the local level, one must know which rego to look in, and either the page or entry #.
The local index for marrs usually gives the entry #, so with a complete listing and a computer behind the web site, it's no bother to see who else has the same ref, but unlike the GRO index, this will identify who wed whom.
An index needs to give enough info for the searcher to identify the entry they want.
How much info this is is open to interpretation, so a local index might give more, or difft info compared with the GRO index.

NB A local rego has 500 entries - 2 per page for M's, 5 per page for B's & D's.
NB The GRO index started including the mum's MS on B's 1911q3, spouse surname on M's 1912q1, age on D's 1866q1


mgnv Report 6 May 2012 05:37

Here's some example local index look ups using:

Lancashire Birth indexes for the years: 1837
Surname Forename(s) Sub-District Registers At Mother's Maiden Name Reference
ANDERTON Richard Walton-le-Dale Preston PICKLES WLD/1/17

Lancashire Death indexes for the years: 1837
Surname Forename(s) Age Sub-District Registers At Reference
AINSWORTH Charles 10 Darwen Blackburn D/1/4

Lancashire Marriage indexes for the years: 1837
Surname Forename(s) Surname Forename(s) Church / Register Office Registers At Reference
ASPINALL John BEARSHAW Elizabeth All Saints, Wigan Wigan & Leigh C33/1/102
ATHERTON Mary CHISHALL Richard Wigan, Register Office or Registrar Attended Wigan & Leigh ROW/1/18

Marrs are not always indexed by entry - here's the GRO index

Marriages Mar 1850 (>99%)
Billington Elizabeth Wrexham 27 396
Davies William Wrexham 27 396
Jones Thomas Wrexham 27 396
JUDD Elizabeth Wrexham 27 396
Letsam John Wrexham 27 396
*Phillips Charles Wrexham 27 396
Poole Ellen Wrexham 27 396
**Stanford Mary Wrexham 27 396

and here's Mary on the local index:

North Wales Marriage indexes for the years: 1850
STANFORD Mary Match Possible Spouses Wrexham, St Giles Wrexham County Borough (Wrexham) C45/03/155

PADDOCK Francess C45/03/155
PHILLIPS Charles C45/03/155
ROWLAND Edward C45/03/155

Of course, I picked this name out specially - somtimes I just cut the # of possible spouses down to 2,
but here the page boundaries are misaligned, and only Charles is on GRO's page 396, so he must be her spouse.
(Ed & Fran are on the next GRO page 397)

Marriages Mar 1850 (>99%)
Garner Mary Jane Wrexham 27 397
Jones Isaac Wrexham 27 397
Jones Jane Wrexham 27 397
Jones Sarah Wrexham 27 397
Lloyd Harriett Wrexham 27 397
Moss Thomas Wrexham 27 397
*Paddock Frances Wrexham 27 397
Price Thomas Wrexham 27 397
*Rowland Edward Wrexham 27 397

Here's 2 Newcastle births:

1849 - ROBSON Jane Request Certificate (Opens in new window)
Register No./Entry No.

1850 - ROBSON William Request Certificate (Opens in new window)
Register No./Entry No.

You're left to guess LBN=Longbenton BYK=Byker, etc.

Here's a S Tyneside marr:

Spouse: Mary WILKINSON
Register: C0008
Entry: 405
Date: 07/12/1841

There's a marr index help link, which says
C0008=St Paul, Jarrow

Here's a Tower Hamlets marr:

Result Year Forename Initial Surname Ref Next
1 1841 Ann AUSTIN /CE77 1/9/ Order
2 1841 John RUSSELL /CE77 1/9/ Order

You're left to guess CE77=All Saints, Stepney
They do have a district history online which helps decode their subdistrict ref codes.


Lancashire Marriage indexes for the years: 1879
Surname Forename(s) Surname Forename(s) Church / Register Office Registers At Reference
MACE John H GILL Margaret A Gorton, St. James Manchester 56/1/349

Look under
England, Lancashire – Cheshire – Yorkshire Parish Registers, 1603-1992
but, in spite of the title, it's really Greater Manchester.
The collection is partly indexed, but this marr is not done yet (May 2012)

Re the ref 56/1/349.
56 is the church code, which Lancs BMD tells us is Gorton, St. James
1 is the rego #, here the 1st rego, so it corresponds to an early block of years for the church (but we know 1879)
349 is the entry # in the rego.

Now when we browse the images, we see there are 2 entries per image, so we should expect entry 349 to be on image 175 (and it is).


RolloTheRed Report 6 May 2012 09:55

This is a Genuki refeence about an attempt to create a reliable version of the GRO Index. It is a shame that Ay BrightSolid and others do not get behind it.

If you can get hold of a copy of this you will soon see why the GRO index has its problems.

St Catherines a Comedy of Errors

Many Brits were born / married / died outside of the UK without being permanent expatriates. Some countries incorporate these records into their national bmd records. The GRO is inconsistent.

A great many of the handwritten index
Apart from funding one reason for the cessation of the UK ID scheme was the difficult of identifying anybody in the UK. It is extremely poor security to issue authentic id based on a compromised database. Doing this simply locks the problem inside the firewall so as to speak.