News and Blog

The latest news and information from the Achievements team.

  1. New GRO Indexes

    The General Register Office has launched its own version of birth indexes, 1837-1915, and deaths indexes, 1837-1957. See

    These indexes have been created independently from other online indexes. They were made from the register images, so avoiding errors you may find on other genealogical websites (although they may have made new ones!).

    The new indexes are significant as they are the first to include the mother’s maiden name before 1911 and ages at death before 1866.  This will make family history research easier, No more buying a death certificate not knowing if the age matches your ancestor.

    A downside to the indexes is that they will only allow a search for a given  year plus two either side.

    In the future they should be extending the indexes available and adding an option to purchase the certificate as a PDF. This is currently being trialed.

  2. General Registration around the world

    General Registration is where most people start when tracing their family tree.  English, Welsh and Irish records provide both parents names, including mothers’ maiden surnames, on birth certificates, as well as address and occupation of father (or sometimes mother is she is unmarried).  Marriage records give the age of parties, occupation, address and the father’s name and his occupation.  Death certificates provide an age, occupation and residence.

    Apart from additional information gleaned from witnesses or informants names, this tends to be the limit of information provided.  But when looking into General Registration, or vital records, of other countries, extra information can be given.

    In terms of the UK, Scottish General Registration is particularly useful, for marriage certificates also provide the mother’s name and maiden surname, and death certificates (should) give both parents’ full names.  This can be particularly useful if dealing with a death in the 1850s for example, of an elderly person perhaps in their 80s: if known, their parents names should be stated.

    When considering General Registration from further afield, again additional information is often given when compared to English records.  Australian and New Zealand certificates include place of birth on marriage and death certificates, as well as place of birth of the parents on birth certificates.  This information is invaluable, particularly due to the large number of incomers to these countries in the nineteenth century.

    Other countries with particularly good civil registration records, include Holland.  So if you find links to other countries, investigate their records of civil registration and see what additional information can be found.

  3. Missing birth records?

    There can be all sorts of reasons why a birth certificate cannot be found within records of General Registration.  The GRO was set up in 1837, and was the first time all births, marriages and deaths were systematically recorded by a non-religious body.

    But sometimes entries, particularly births, may not be forthcoming despite careful searches.  It could be that a birth was not registered, which is more likely in the earlier years of civil registration.  However, before concluding that this is the case, it is important to make sure that all possible scenarios are covered.

    Was the birth registered with a variant spelling, of the forename or surname?  For example the name Smith could be rendered Smyth or Smythe.  And Ann could be Anna, Annie or Anne.  Using the wildcard option within search engines can help find spelling variants.

    Did the birth take place prior to the parents marriage?  In this case, it would probably be recorded under the mother’s maiden surname.

    Check the dates searched – was your ancestor a little older, or younger, than later records suggest?

    Was your ancestor born outside of England or Wales, such as in Scotland, Ireland or even farther afield?

    Using these tips, searches of civil registration can be made a comprehensive as possible.



December 2018
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