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Thursday, 13 March 2008

Understanding the GRO (General Registrar's Office - UK)

Each Registry Office creates certificates and once a quarter these are sent to the Registrar General's Office where they are indexed by type and name. Indexes exist for each quarter of a year for each type of event - for example: Marriages, quarter ending March, 1880. To ask someone to look for an event over a two year period requires them to consult eight separate index volumes.

A local Registrar's Office (RO) holds their marriage records indexed by church, not surname, unless it was a civil ceremony, and those are recorded by date. If you don't know the church name, the parish name should suffice. Normally, births and deaths are recorded in approximate date order at the Registry Office. It isn't until the records are sent to the General Registrar's Office (GRO) once each quarter, that an index by surnames is created. It is these quarterly indexes mentioned above that are available at various libraries and archives. The GRO Index number is a volume and page number, and is not unique for each event. For example, for marriages there may be three marriages recorded per page. Until the early 1850s up to eight people (four couples) can share the same page number in each quarter. After that up to four people share the same number. For the first few years of indexing, the volume number was a Roman numeral.

Unfortunately, the volume and page number provided in the national GRO index means nothing to the local RO. But having it proves that the entry exists in a certain time frame. Fees for certificates ordered from the GRO are more expensive than the RO fees, but if you are uncertain about the details, the GRO may be a better place to search. If you know the date, church, etc., then the local RO is often faster and less expensive. Only the marriage certificates are ordered by church.

One reason why there are missing BMD's in the GRO is because they got lost in transit between the local Registrar's Office and the GRO. It is best to check the local office for any BMD's.

There is no way to view the birth or marriages certificates themselves online (over the Internet). However the indexes are now available online at Ancestry and from March 2008 full microfiche indexes of registration records dating back as far as 1837 will be available at libraries in Birmingham, Bridgend, and Plymouth, as well as Manchester Record Office from April.

Once you know the index reference number you can order certificates from the GRO online.

Events recorded since the start of Civil Registration are unlikely to appear in the International Genealogical Index (IGI) or British Vital Records Index (VRI) since most of those entries are from parish registers or transcripts thereof.


Lindsey Gingrich said...

Your blog is fantastic! I'm a budding genealogist, fortunately, previous generations have provided a lot for me to work with. I'll be returning to this site often, I think I can learn a lot from you :)