Country wide civil registration of births, marriages and deaths commenced on 1 July 1837 in England and Wales. Registration took place at local civil registrars who in turn reported to the Registrar General at the General Register Office (GRO) in London. This national index to vital records is an essential source of genealogical information for family historians.
Since the original birth, marriage and death registers are not open to the public, getting access to the information on one of these certificates is done by first searching the national birth, marriage and death indexes, that have been created by the GRO for this purpose. The indexes for the three events are each divided into quarterly volumes, with the names for each quarter listed alphabetically. Once an entry in one of the indexes is found, you are then able to use that information to order of copy of a death, marriage or birth certificate from the GRO. The other information that can be obtained from the index includes:
- Record type (in this database this will always be "Death")
- Quarter (March, June, September, and December)
- District (each county in England and Wales was divided up into registration districts)
- Page number
Note: Names were entered into the volume of the quarter in which notification of the event was received, not necessarily the quarter in which the event actually occurred.
This database is made available to Ancestry.com users, courtesy of the volunteers of the FreeBMD organization. The leadership of FreeBMD have organized the permissions and tools necessary to enable thousands of volunteers to convert to electronic text, and publish online, searchable indexes to the civil registrations in England and Wales. Because of the nature of the index you will note that not all of the fields have been indexed all of the time. Until 1866, most of the indexes were handwritten, making the task of conversion sometimes difficult.