What is FreeBMD?
FreeBMD is an ongoing project to extract civil registration records for England and Wales. Currently the project is attempting to transcribe all of the indexes to births, marriages, and deaths from 1 July 1837 through 31 December 1949. Not all of the indexes have been fully transcribed, although the project is nearly 99% complete up to 1911. For a chart showing the percentage of completion quarterly by year, see FreeBMD Coverage Charts. See Civil Registration for information on the contents and availability of Birth, Marriage, and Death records.
FreeBMD has transcriptions of indexes only. To obtain the actual certificates of birth, marriage, or death, they must be ordered from the General Register Office (GRO) using the index reference obtained from FreeBMD.
To locate a birth, marriage, or death index reference, search FreeBMD. Once you've indentified and noted the correct index reference, you can order the certificate online from GRO. Registration with GRO is free, but certificates are available only upon payment of a fee.
Gone are the days of needing to make long searches through the bulky Birth, Marriage and Death index volumes at Somerset house, St. Catharine’s house, Middleton place, or fiches at the Family History Centre. You can now do it quickly on the internet. FreeBMD mostly covers entries up to 1930, but the years it covers are growing rapidly.
FreeBMD has excellent search capabilities, you can specify searches
- across the whole of England and Wales,
- in one or more counties or one or more registration districts,
- between specified date ranges.
Not only this, but you can use very advanced searches to extract information that you could not get without this amazing database:
Searching FreeBMD for spouse's maiden name
My wife's grandfather Ralph BIDWELL is in a family of 11 children born and living in Salisbury in the 1881 census (RG11/2071/23)
His brother Arthur William BIDWELL is 5 in 1881.
Arthur is living in Reading in the 1901 Census (RG13/1145/69/20)
Arthur W. Bidwell Head/M/25 Traveller born Wilts Salisbury
Sybil do Wife/M/21 born Gloucestershire Gloucester
166 Castle Street, St. Mary , Reading, Berkshire, England
Search in Marriages for Arthur BIDWELL marrying Sybil (blank surname) in the date range 1893 to 1901 and you will get the following:
Marriages Mar 1901 BIDWELL Arthur William Gloucester 6a 458
Before 1852, up to 4 marriages were entered on each page of the register. After that there are usually 2 per page. Each page of the register is identified by the District, Volume and Page. Click on the page number (458) to see all the people listed on the page and you will see:
Marriages Mar 1901
BIDWELL Arthur William Gloucester 6a 458
NICHOLLS Beatrice Gertrude Gloucester 6a 458
NICHOLLS Ernest Arthur Gloucester 6a 458
ONLEY Sybil Gloucester 6a 458
So, I have found that they were married in Gloucester in the March Quarter of 1901 and (without having to buy their marriage certificate) that Sybil’s maiden name is ONLEY.
Find when a person dies using Date of Birth in your search
The GRO index contains the age at death from 1st Jan 1866, if you know when a person was born and they died after this date then you can use that date to narrow down your such, this works particularly well for very common names.
To do this specify in the Age at Death field the Date of Birth as
EITHER @day/month/year OR use a range of dates: @day/month/year-day/month/year
Think of the @ sign as meaning born at this date.
The year must be 4 digits (e.g. 1875); either the day or the day/month can be omitted.
William Bass was born 11 Feb1852, in the 1901 census he was living in Grantham.
Search for a death for William Bass from 1901 and you get over 100 entries.
However, search after 1901 with @11/02/1852 in the “Death age/DoB” box and you get just 3 deaths listed, one of them in Grantham – this must be the man!
FreeBMD calculates the Date of Birth from the Age at Death and the quarter in which the death was registered.
Note however, that the Date of Birth derived from the Age at Death has a wide latitude, typically 18 months when a precise Date of Birth is supplied and 30 months when only the year is supplied.
Alternative to Free BMD
Another free online index is UKBMD. Click on Local BMD to see the counties that have been indexed. Volunteers from several counties have gone into local registration offices and transcribed the original registrar index books for marriages, births and deaths (usually in that order). Birth and death registrations have been compiled with year of event, rather than year of registration. The online search gives place of marriage and provides online capability to print the form with event details and reference, to be posted directly to the Registration office (GRO) to purchase the certificate. This is a rapid reply service.