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England and Wales, How To Use Civil Registration Birth Records
Introduction
Beginning 1 July 1837, the English government began registering births, marriages, and deaths in England and Wales through a process known as civil registration. Civil registration records include birth, marriage, and death certificates for the entire country. These records continue to the present. Civil registration certificates are not available for public inspection, nor have they been filmed or printed for public use. You must purchase a copy of a certificate to see the information in the original record. You can use a national index called the Index to the Civil Registration of Births, Marriages, and Deaths to identify and obtain a copy of a birth certificate.
For more information about civil registration, see Background.
What you are looking for
The information you will find varies from record to record. These records may include:
• Name of your ancestor.
• Birth date of your ancestor.
• Place of birth of your ancestor.
• Name of the father of your ancestor.
• Name of the mother of your ancestor, including her maiden name.
• Occupation of your ancestor's father.
• Name of a person present at your ancestor's birth.
Steps
These 4 steps will help you find a birth certificate for an ancestor born in England or Wales.
Step 1. Find and use the Index to the Civil Registration of Births.
Because birth certificates are not available to the public, you must use the Index to the Civil Registration of Births to determine if a birth certificate exists. For a step-by-step guide to finding and using the index, see How to Use the Index to the Civil Registration of Births.
If you already know how to use the index and will be doing your search at a Family History Center or the Family History Library, you can go directly to a list of microfilm and microfiche numbers in England and Wales Civil Registration Indexes on Microfiche and Microfilm.
England and Wales, How To Use Civil Registration Birth Records
Step 2. Order a birth certificate for your ancestor.
To see birth information, you must order a copy of the actual certificate.
You can order:
• By mail.
• At the Family Records Centre in London.
• By e-mail.
• From a Superintendent Registrar.
• On the Internet.
Step 3. Copy the information from the certificate, and note the source.
When you receive the certificate, copy the information, exactly as it was given, onto the family group sheets and pedigree chart for your ancestor. Be sure to record where the information came from onto a research log. To learn how to keep good notes, see Note taking & keeping for genealogists.
Step 4. Analyze the information found on the certificate.
Compare any information you found on the certificate with knowledge you already have about your ancestor. Does it:
• Conflict with what you know? If it does, use other sources to verify the information.
• Support what you know?
• Add to what you know?
Then ask yourself:
• Did the source have the information I wanted?
• Is this information accurate?
• Does this information suggest other sources to search? A christening record may verify known details or give additional information.
Background
Description
Use church records to find birth or christening information before 1837. In the early 1800s, Parliament recognized the need for accurate birth records for voting, planning, and defense purposes. In response to this need, birth registration for England and Wales began on 1 July 1837.
Initially, the local registrar was responsible for registering births. No penalty was imposed for failure to register, so some births may have gone unregistered. About 90 to 95 percent of births were recorded between 1837 and 1875.
In 1874, the responsibility for registration of births was changed from the registrar to the parents of the child, an occupier of the house where the child was born, or the person responsible for the
Research Guidance
Version of Data: 9/24/2002
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England and Wales, How To Use Civil Registration Birth Records
child. A penalty was then added for failure to register. By 1875, approximately 99 percent of all births were being recorded.
Where to Find It
Original civil registration records are kept at each superintendent registrar's district office. Duplicate copies are kept at the Office for National Statistics (formerly General Register Office or St. Catherine's House).
Civil registration certificates are not open to public inspection, but you can purchase copies. Indexes are available to the public. To see more information than is given in the index, you must obtain a copy of the actual certificate. There is an added fee for ordering copies without supplying the index reference information.
Office for National Statistics
By mail
To order a certificate by mail, write to:
General Register Office P.O. Box 2 Southport Merseyside PR8 2JD England Telephone: +44-151-471-4816
By e-mail
To order a certificate by e-mail from the Office for National Statistics, write to:
certificate.services@ons.gov.uk
Family Records Centre
To order a certificate in person when you are in England, go to:
The Family Records Centre 1 Myddleton Street London EC1 England
Superintendent Registrar
If you know the registration district, you may order a certificate from the Superintendent Registrar, since search policies are often more liberal there than at the Office for National Statistics (formerly General Register Office or St. Catherine's House).
The Office for National Statistics publishes an Index to the Civil Registration of Births. The reference numbers in the index (district, volume, and page number) do not help the Superintendent Registrar locate records in his or her district.
Superintendent Registrar district boundaries sometimes change. When changes are made, the certificates are moved to a different office. Check to see if the boundaries for your district have Research Guidance
Version of Data: 9/24/2002
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England and Wales, How To Use Civil Registration Birth Records
changed over time. Registration Districts in England and Wales (1837-1930) gives a short history of the changes in districts.
The current Superintendent Registrars' addresses are found in:
The Official List of 1993. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1993. or District Register Offices in England and Wales. 4th Ed. Yorkshire, England: East Yorkshire Family History Society, 1989. or English and Welsh Register Offices.
Family History Library
The Family History Library does not have any original civil registration certificates or copies of them. Microfilm and microfiche copies of the Index to the Civil Registration of Births are available from the September quarter of 1837 through 1983. There is no fee for using the microfilm and microfiche index at the library.
Family History Centers
Copies of the civil registration birth certificates are not available in Family History Centers. The Index to the Civil Registration of Births can be ordered into a Family History Center. For the address of the Family History Center nearest you, see Family History Centers.
Genealogical Search Service
You can hire family history societies, professional researchers, individuals, or companies to purchase certificates from the Family Records Centre. Contact them to find their individual fees and methods of ordering, or check these sources:
• CyndisList, "Professional Researchers, Volunteers & Other Research Services".
• Advertisements in major genealogical journals, such as Family Tree Magazine, give information about companies and individuals who provide certificate services.
• Browse Categories - Services and Tools on FamilySearch.org lists companies and individuals who may provide this service.
Certificate Exchanges
Some internet sites provide information from certificates to the public without charge. Individuals register minimum information from copies of the certificates they have purchased. This information is then posted on the Internet site, along with an e-mail address of the person holding the copy of the certificate. If you are interested, you can contact this person and ask for the full certificate information. Some sites list unwanted copies of certificates that you can acquire from individuals. One example of these sites is the UK BMD Exchange.
FamilySearch Internet Genealogy Service
Copies of the civil registration birth certificates and the Index to the Civil Registration of Births are not available on the FamilySearch Internet website.
Research Guidance