Although the GRO was not specifically established to undertake statistical research, the early Registrar Generals, Thomas Henry Lister —42 and George Graham —79 , built up a Statistical Department to compile medical, public health and actuarial statistics. Under these men the Annual reports of the Registrar General became a vehicle for administrative and social reform.
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During the First World War the GRO was responsible for co-ordinating National Registration, which underpinned recruitment to the armed forces, the movement of workers into the munitions industries, and rationing. National Registration was not, however, continued after the war and the GRO was absorbed into the Ministry of Health in Until then it had had several statistical functions, including the conduct of population censuses and the production of annual population estimates; all these were moved elsewhere within the new organisation.
The move followed changes to make Office for National Statistics ONS more independent of the British Government, which included relinquishing the registration role. For a short time after the move the death records were stored at Alexandra House , until room was found for all the records at St Catherine's House.
This facility was jointly operated by the National Archives so that public access to census returns was also available at the same location. The FRC was closed in , in response to steadily decreasing visitor numbers caused by the increased online availability of the records. In the early days of the system, it was up to each local registrar to find out what births, marriages and deaths had taken place in his sub-district. Births had to be registered within 42 days at the district or sub-district office, usually by the mother or father.
If more days had elapsed but it was less than three months since the birth, the superintendent registrar had to be present and if between three months and a year, the registration could only be authorised by the Registrar General. Until , there were no registrations at all of still born children. For illegitimate children, the original legislation provided that "it shall not be necessary to register the name of any father of a bastard child.
In a child father could also be recorded on the birth certificate, if not married to the mother, without being physically present to sign the register.
Clergy of the established Church of England are registrars for marriage. In each parish church two identical registers of marriages are kept and when they are complete, one is sent to the superintendent registrar. In the meantime, every three months it is required that a return certified by a clergy person detailing the marriages that had taken place, or else that no marriages had taken place, in the preceding three months, be submitted directly to the superintendent registrar.
The Marriage Act also permitted marriages by licence to take place in approved churches, chapels and nonconformist meeting houses, other than those of the Church of England. Marriages were only legally binding if they were notified to the superintendent registrar by the officiating minister so in effect, this required the presence of a local registration officer as the authorising person. When a nonconformist minister or other religious official, such as a rabbi, performed the ceremony it was necessary for the local registrar or his assistant to be present so that the marriage was legal.
This legalisation was not repealed until , after which date, nonconformist ministers and other religious leaders could take on the role of notifying official, if so appointed, and on the condition that their premises were licensed for the solemnising of marriage. The civil authorities, i. Changes in marriage laws since have also affected how marriages are registered, for example, civil partnerships for same-sex couples were introduced by the British Government in and the GRO records these ceremonies through its civil registration system.
A death was to be registered by someone who had been present at the death or during the final illness. If that wasn't possible, it could be registered by the owner of the building the person died in, or if the dead person was the owner, by some other occupier of the building. There were more complicated arrangements for eventualities such as unidentified bodies being found, and cases where there was a coroner's inquest. A death was supposed to be registered within eight days.
Since there wasn't necessarily a unique person clearly responsible for registering a death, in order to make sure deaths were registered, clergymen were made responsible for checking the death certificate before performing any funeral or burial service. However, they were given some leeway in case the death hadn't been registered yet, and could go ahead with the service provided they notified the registrar themselves within seven days. If they failed to do so they were liable for a ten-pound fine. From the cause of death had to be certified by a doctor before registration.
A death would normally be registered in the district in which it occurred. Once a death has been registered, the registrar would normally issue a Certificate for Burial or Cremation, unless the death were being investigated by the coroner or there were an inquest.
This certificate would give permission for the body to be buried or for an application for cremation to be made. The Births and Deaths Act tried to ensure all deaths were registered, by placing a duty on the persons who were supposed to register the death to do so. No specific penalty was imposed if they failed to do it, but if the registrar became aware of any deaths that hadn't been registered within the past year, then the registrar had a duty and was empowered to summon the negligent parties to the register office to get it registered.
If the death had occurred more than a year previously, it wasn't to be registered late without special permission. A different registration system operates today in other parts of the United Kingdom. Every three months, at the end of March, June, September and December, the superintendent registrars send a copy of each entry of birth, marriage and death registered by their office in that quarter, to the Registrar General in London. From these returns the General Register Office produced indexes to its records which are open to public inspection and the indexes can be used to order birth, marriage and death certificates.
With the exception of some extra details recorded on death certificates since , the information given on certificates of birth, marriage and death has not changed since , but the amount of information given in the index volumes has increased from time to time.
Up until , the copies received by the Registrar General were bound into volumes and three separate alphabetical indexes were prepared on a quarterly basis. The number of volumes depends on the number of people registered in each quarter. Thus there may be 10 volumes for some quarters — Vol.
From their inception, the alphabetical indexes give the surname, the forenames if registered, the registration district and the volume and the page on which the entry may be found. These details enable the appropriate record to be located. Before , the indexes were written by hand on heavy parchment, though some have been replaced by printed copies.
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From , the indexes are in annual instead of quarterly volumes from The indexes from give the month of registration as the first and second digits in the document reference number. The next two digits give the year. Thus the reference number 9 refers to an event registered in April From the GRO death index specifies an age of death and from the birth index also specifies the maiden name of a child's mother. The GRO indexes are major tool for persons tracing their family history as well as those needing duplicate copies of their own birth or marriage certificates.
The indexes can be viewed on microfiche at the National Archives , major libraries, county record officers, LDS Family History Centres and can also be searched on a pay-per-view basis on several family history websites. This is an ongoing project to transcribe the whole GRO Index. There is also the GRO Index , an index of births from to , and deaths from to Unlike the indexes available elsewhere, it contains the mother's maiden name for births and the age of death for deaths for all years. In addition to the registers already mentioned, the GRO has charge of a number of other records in its Overseas Section.
These indexes can be searched online at pay-per-view family history websites and at the National Archives. They generally contain similar information to the main GRO indexes and registers. This is especially important in probate genealogy, when omitting an individual would mean potentially failing to research an entire branch of a family, and thus failing to ensure all heirs get a share of an estate they are legally entitled to. Finally, if you are certain of the date of an event, but less certain of the name, browsing can be a quicker way to find likely candidate.
Once you've discovered when and where your ancestor was born, married or died by using findmypast's birth, marriage and death records, you can order a certified copy of their birth, marriage or death certificate from the General Register Office GRO. This service is available both to UK and non-UK residents and covers births, marriages and deaths registered in England and Wales, as well as certain registrations overseas. English and Welsh birth, marriage and death certificates are considered public records, so anyone can order a copy of them.
Vital Records: Birth, Marriage, Death (BMD) | Ancestry
If you are enquiring about a more recent birth or death certificate recorded within the last 50 years , the GRO will require more detailed information from you than for older certificates. The easiest way to order a certificate is online through the GOV.
UK website: www. The certificate ordering service is not connected to Findmypast. If you have any queries regarding certificates, please contact the GRO directly by email, telephone or post using the details below.
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You can also order certificates from the GRO by contacting them in this way. A-Z of record sets. Learn more Useful links. Event Type.
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