09 November 2016
New GRO birth and death register indexes for England and Wales make searching much more effective
The General Register Office (GRO) has released new online indexes accessible via its website.
The key differences to existing indexes for England and Wales (provided via, for instance, FreeBMD, Ancestry, Findmypast, TheGenealogist) is that the GRO’s online index provides a search field for the mother’s maiden name for searching for a birth registered between July 1837 and December 1915, and provides an age at death field for searching for a death registered between July 1837 and December 1957. Both additional search options will help to identify an ancestor with more certainty before buying a certificate. Also, the GRO’s new online index has been created from the original GRO registers (rather than from the register indexes).
To access the new indexes you will need to register, if you haven't already, (or update your registration - simply enter your usual login details, and then click the link that appears in the verification email you’ll receive) at https://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/certificates/Login.asp
From here you can search the birth indexes (1937-1915) and deaths (1837-1957). The datespans and record types available are due to two reasons. Firstly, the GRO has adopted the definition of historic records (as used for Scottish registrations for instance) to mean birth register entries of more than 100 years ago and deaths of 50. Secondly, the records for which the new GRO online indexes are available have been digitised by the GRO, as part of the Government’s DOVE (Digitisation of Vital Events project). Death registrations were only digitised up to 1957, rather than 1965, hence the discrepancy in new index availability there. Marriages were not digitised as part of this project so are not available via the GRO site.
Tips to search the new GRO birth and death indexes
- Results are restricted to 250 per search (you’ll need to refine your search terms if you exceed this number)
- You can search for a date +/- 2 years (meaning that you can search a 5-year datespan in one go)
- If you get a dash in the mother’s maiden name field or age at death field this simply means that the information wasn’t entered in the original register entry.
- Having the additional details (eg mother’s maiden name or age at death) is a real boon - helping to sift through the otherwise numerous entries you receive when searching on a popular name, and also meaning that you can identify your ancestor with more certainty from a long list of results.
£6 ‘certificate’ pilot price slash
From 9 November 2016, rather than paying £9.25 when ordering a birth, marriage or death certificate from the General Register Office website, you could pay just £6 for a pdf copy instead. This cheaper price is part of a pilot scheme that applies to the first 45,000 applications received (or for three weeks - ie til 30 November 2016 - should the supply not be exhausted in the meantime). The pdf copies will be available for birth registrations 1837-1934, and for death registrations 1837-1957 (and for recent years: births and deaths from 2007, marriages from 2005 and civil partnerships from 2011) . The pdf copy will provide family historians with all the available details so will serve the purposes of genealogy research, while costing less and being supplied conveniently via email (though fulfillment of the order is not immediate - you will be notified of the estimated pdf delivery date at the time you place your order, before you part with money). This is phase 1 of the pilot scheme. Phase 2 will trial 3-hour delivery of pdf orders. And phase 3 will introduce pdf copies for records that aren't currently digitised. Details of the implementation of phase 2 and phase 3 will be released in due course on the GRO website.
The GRO website states that there are currently no plans to resume digitisation of the original registers and so include marriages, but further pilot schemes are anticipated. You can read more about the Government’s ‘Births, Deaths, Marriages and Civil Partnerships Records Regulation 2016’ at http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2016/980/pdfs/uksi_20160980_en.pdf
This includes intriguing and exciting statements regarding future possible services. For instance, number 4, ‘The Registrar General may, on request, search… in the marriage register… and provide a record of the information contained in a marriage entry… in a portable document format'.
Let us know how you get on with the new services at https://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/certificates/menu.asp - we’d love to hear.