The registration of births, deaths and marriages started in July 1837 in England and Wales.
The indexes to these entries have been available for researchers on microfiche and online on various websites (Findmypast, Ancestry, The Genealogist, FreeBMD) for many years and some of us may have even lifted heavy books from shelves in London to view the indexes.
As of today however the indexes for births and deaths are also available online via the GRO website www.gro.gov.uk. As a bonus they also included additional information for historical births and deaths.
For births, mother’s maiden names have been available on the indexes from 1911, these are now available prior to 1911 on the GRO index (where possible). This will be helpful to identify siblings in your families.
For deaths, the age at death in now available prior to 1865, which may help to identify your ancestor.
Here’s a short tutorial on using the indexes.
You will need to register on the website before you are able to search the indexes. Once you are logged in then you will see the following screen.
Once you click on “Search the GRO Indexes” you’ll get a choice between births and deaths.
Searching the Birth Indexes
The search screen gives you a number of fields to complete.
It is important to be aware of the mandatory fields of Gender and Year.
The years to search for births are limited to a 100 year closure and you can only search 5 years at a time i.e. a year +/- 2 years. So by choosing 1839 +/- 2 years you can search 1837-1841 (remembering that the indexes started in July 1837).
The search results appear below the search screen and you can see the additional mother’s maiden name.
If you are looking for families, you can also search with a mother’s maiden name.
It may be worthwhile to change from Exact matches to Phonetically or Similar Sounding Variations.
Burkey / Barkey, it’s easy to see why the name was transcribed incorrectly (just imagine the loopy handwriting).
Searching the Death Indexes
By switching to the death choice at the top, the really nice thing is that the choices from the previous birth screen are still there. This can be really useful if you are looking for the deaths of infants.
Deaths can currently be searched to 1957 and like births have a +/- 2 years when you select a year.
The results include the age at death, which is new for the pre 1868 period.
Don't forget to swap between male and female as you do your searches.
You can order the certificates directly and the cost is £9.25 (at November 2016). You can also order certificates for years that are not covered in these indexes, you’ll just need to check the indexes via other websites. I'm finding that certificates are taking about two weeks to arrive in New Zealand.
More information about the General Register Office, and what is available, can be found here: https://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/certificates/most_customers_want_to_know.asp#FamilyHistory
Hopefully you may find some more leads for you family research.
Have a look at our other blog posts on the GRO Indexes:
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