Birth, Marriage & Death Information in the United Kingdom (UK)

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Births, Marriages & Deaths

in the UK


Civil registrations of births, marriages and deaths in England and Wales began on 01 July 1837.  Indexes of the registrations can be searched online in various places.


Personally, I begin my search at FreeBMD - after all, if you can legitimately locate your information for free, why pay?  FreeBMD is a work-in-progress and not complete; if you find your people there that's great, but if you don't and can see that pages you want to check are not yet available there, move on to a site where you pay to view.


After exhausting FreeBMD I then go to (formerly and pay to view index pages there.


Regardless of where I view the pages, whenever I have an actual index page on my screen, I save a copy of it on my own computer so I can view it again later.  I have separate folders for each type (births, marriages & deaths), and give each file a meaningful name so I can see at a glance exactly what it contains, eg 1917-03, marriages, Vau-Ver tells you immediately that the file is a page from the marriage indexes for the first (that is, the March) quarter of 1917, starting with a surname beginning "Vau" and ending at one that begins "Ver".  This naming convention sorts the files by date then name, making it very quick to locate the one you need.


So now you've found the person you're looking for on an index page - what now?  The information you need to glean from the index will look like this:

Surname    / Name  / District    / Volume / Page

Playforth  / Eliza / Pocklington / XXIII  / 58 

This is a line from the December quarter 1850 birth indexes; Eliza is my great-great-grandmother.  This reference is all that's needed to order a copy of the birth certificate.


Certificates can be ordered from the General Register Office.  They have an online Certificate Ordering Service; certificates are 7.00 each.


Some counties have their own facilities as well, for example, Durham County Council has several online services, including ordering Registrar's certificates, where you can also search the indexes during the ordering process.


This is a brief guide only to help you get started - not a comprehensive entry of all knowledge about UK civil registrations.  Please direct any questions you have to a forum that may be able to help you further, such as a Rootsweb list for the county or city your person came from.

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