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Birth, marriage and death records in England & Wales

Expert advice on researching birth records

Expert advice on researching marriage records

Expert advice on researching death records

Expert advice on understanding birth, marriage and death certificates

An introduction to birth, marriage and death records

Civil registration of births, marriages and deaths did not begin until July 1837. At that time England & Wales was subdivided into administrative areas known as registration districts.

Within each district a registrar took responsibility for the recording of births, marriages and deaths.

Four times a year all the registers for England & Wales and collated them into a single countrywide index, arranged alphabetically by surname.

The indexes to the registers are quarterly rather than annual in scope - the four quarters being known as March, June, September and December. Each of these covers the month itself and the two preceding months, as follows:

•January, February, March registrations in the March quarter
•April, May, June registrations in the June quarter
•July, August, September registrations in the September quarter
•October, November, December registrations in the December quarter

Key dates


1 July 1837 - Introduction of General Civil Registration of Births, Marriages and Deaths in England and Wales

Births


•Pre-1875 - an estimated 6 to 10% of births NOT registered
•1875 more rigorous enforcement of compulsory registration
•September quarter 1837 to June quarter 1911 -- only first two full forenames, subsequent initials, registration district and reference number
•September quarter 1911 to present -- only first forename, subsequent initials, registration district and number but also includes mother's maiden surname.

Marriages


•September quarter 1837 to December quarter 1911 -- only first two full forenames, subsequent initials, registration district and ref number
•March quarter 1912 to September quarter 1962 -- if female was previously married, index shows maiden name and married name
•March quarter 1912 to present day -- surname of spouse added

Deaths


•1875 enforcement of compulsory registration
•September quarter 1837 to June quarter 1911 -- only first two full forenames, subsequent initials, registration district and reference number
•September quarter 1911 onwards - only first forename, subsequent initials, registration district and number
•September quarter 1837 to December quarter 1865 -- no age given
•March quarter 1866 to March quarter 1969 -- age at death given
•June quarter 1969 to present -- exact date of birth given

GRO Scotland


Scottish civil registration

The act of civil registration began in Scotland on 1 January 1855. There is a lot more information on Scottish records with the date of the parents' wedding on a birth certificate, both bride's and groom's parents are mentioned on marriage certificates and both parents also mentioned on death certificates. If you are of Scottish descent then you need to contact:

The General Register Office
New Register House
3 West Register Street
Edinburgh
EH1 3YT

Tel: 0131 314 4444
Email: records@gro-scotland.gov.uk
Website: www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk