The Value of Civil Registrations
Civil Registrations can open the door to your research in the United Kingdom by providing you with the date and place of birth, the name and sex of the child, the father's name and occupation, the mother's maiden name and given name, as well as the residence and signature of the person notifying the authorities of the vital event.
If a marriage record is what you seek, the name, age, residence and occupation of the bride and groom could be provided as well as the date and place of marriage. If the bride or groom were previously married that would be provided as well. The name and occupation of the father of the bride and groom as well as the signature of witnesses is recorded.
Death records contain the name, age and occupation of the deceased as well as his or her sex, date, place, and cause of death. Once again the name and residence of the person notifying the authorities of the information as well as their relationship to the deceased is provided.
England and Wales started to register Vital Records July 1, 1837. Scotland started their register January 1, 1855. Northern Ireland started registering their marriages April 1, 1845 and then their birth and death records on January 1, 1864. In some of the more remote areas of each country the records were not kept as they should have been. This will appear as gaps in the records for the first few years. The fact is that the law required registrations of all events, but it wasn't enforced until the 1870s.
When are records available for England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland? The following table summarizes the status of vital registration in the United Kingdom.
UK Beg. Date, Fee, Address Phone, Fax, E-mail
|England and Wales||b. 1837|
|General Register Office|
P.O. Box 2
Merseyside PR8 2JD , England, UK
Credit card Orders (011)(44)151-471-4816
|Northern Ireland||b. 1864|
|General Register Office|
49-55 Chichester Street
Belfast BT1 4HL, Northern Ireland
|(011)(44) 28 9025 2021|
Fax: (011)(44) 28 9025 2120
|General Register Office for Scotland|
New Register House
3 West Register Street
Edinburgh, EH1 3YT, Scotland
|(011)(44) 131 314 4440|
Credit Card orders: (011)(44) 131 314 4411
Fax: (011)(44) 131 314 4400
The Family History Library has collected some microfilms and published holdings of the original records for both Ireland and Scotland, but no Civil Registrations will be found for England and Wales. The collection in the Family History Library includes microfiche and microfilm copies of the index to the civil registrations between 1837 and 1983. These are arranged quarterly by the surname of those who were registered. This is very important to know because an event (birth, marriage, or death) is recorded in the index when it was registered, not when it happened. This is why it is very important to check a three month period (or quarter) after an event if you do not find your person in the month you expect to find them.
Indexes are arranged by year and by quarter:
- The first quarter covers January, February, and March
- The second quarter covers April, May, and June
- The third quarter covers July, August, and September
- The fourth quarter covers October, November, and December
Names are listed in alphabetical order by the individual’s surname (last name) then given name or names followed by the registration district (this is not the same as the place of the birth, marriage or death), a volume number, and a page number. There are cases where no name is provided for the child. In this case, the child’s name appears in the index as "male" or "female," and they appear at the end of each surname list.
Example of a British Civil Registration Index
|Death Record||Index 1839 Dec|| || || |
| ||Name|| ||Sup-Registrars Districts||Volume||Page|
By going to the Family History Library's catalog online, it is possible to search by locality for England then choose "Civil Registration - Index" and select the Index to the Civil Registration of Births, Marriages, and Deaths. The film or fiche numbers will be cataloged first by year, then quarter, then alphabetically by surname, then the microfilm number like this:
- 1849 April-June
- A-Z [Microfiche number] 6101961 (40) [40 fiche in the set]
- A-D [Microfilm number] 528243
- E-H 528244
- I-R 528245
- S-Z 528246
By ordering the index and searching for your own ancestor in it, you will save money when sending for the actual record because the clerks will not have to look up the quarter, year, district, county, volume and page. Plus you will be more confident that the person being sought after is indeed your ancestor by doing a little locality analysis.
For example you might locate two individuals named Mary Brown in the same quarter. You know the town from some other records, but the index does not list that town. By locating the Registration District in either the Imperial Gazetteer of England, or looking at Civil Registration Maps, the proper district may be discovered.
Be aware of name variants in these records as well. If you are looking for Mary, you should be aware that Maime is a variant of that same name. The Oxford Dictionary of English Christian Names can help you out.
Write down all possible names found in the index for the first and middle name of the individual you are seeking. Also copy down any unnamed children for that surname. Handy forms may be ordered for keeping track of your index searches by going to and clicking on the button titled 'All Other Records' then go to products, the last button on the right is Forms. If you are in a hurry or would rather someone else obtain the information in your behalf, the entire service of searching the index and obtaining the registration certificate is performed quite reasonably for you at FamilyTreeMaker.com.
The web sites listed above are a very handy resource. One can download forms and have the most current information regarding Vital Record holdings, fees and prices. Alternative methods for ordering Civil Registrations are posted.
One resource mentioned previously in these lessons is the International Vital Records Handbook , 4th Edition, by Thomas Jay Kemp. It includes copies of the actual forms required by each country and any unique ordering information required for these records such as proof of identity. The book is published by Genealogical Publishing Company.
The next lesson will discuss how to analyze the information and clues provided in the Civil Registrations of this area. In the meantime try a short assignment.
- Locate an ancestor who was born in the United Kingdom by first locating him or her on a United States Federal Census Record which would provide the individuals birth year and possibly month.
- Now convert that time period to one quarter and year or be prepared to search six quarters to cover the entire year plus a quarter before the year and the quarter after the year.
- Go to the Family History Library Catalog online at www.FamilySearch.org and find the Civil Registrations as explained in the lesson.
- Write down the film or fiche numbers you need.
- Go to your local Family History Center and order the films you need.
- Search them as explained in this lesson and locate your ancestor's registration district, quarter, year, county, volume and page number.
- Go online to one of the sites in this lesson and obtain information on ordering the certificate.
- Order the certificate.
About Genealogy Research Associates
Karen Clifford is the Founder and President of Genealogy Research Associates. She is an Accredited Genealogist, an instructor in an Associates Degree program in Library Science-Genealogy and Computers at Hartnell College (Salinas, California) and Monterey Peninsula College (Monterey, California). She has authored several family histories and textbooks including Genealogy & Computers for the Complete Beginner; Genealogy & Computers for the Determined Researcher; Genealogy & Computers for the Advanced Researcher, and Becoming an Accredited Genealogist.
Karen currently serves as Vice-president of the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) and Vice-president of the Utah Genealogical Association (UGA). She is a member of the California State Genealogy Alliance, the Association of Professional Genealogists, the National Genealogical Society, and the New England Historic Genealogical Society. In 1998 and 1999, Karen served as Director of UGA's Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy.
She has received several awards for her volunteer work in the genealogy community including the FGS Award of Merit and the FGS Outstanding Delegate Award.