Introduction to the GRO Vital Records Indexes
Searching the indexes
Related resources at Clayton Library
Some useful links
Clayton Library has the General Register Office (GRO) Vital Records Indexes for 1837-1930. These indexes list births, marriages, and deaths in England and Wales. Clayton Library is one of very few libraries in the United States providing access to these indexes.
Civil registration of births, marriages, and deaths began in England in 1837, the first year of Queen Victoria's reign. The actual registers are not available to the public, but individual certificates can be ordered from the General Register Office in Southport, England. The indexes provide the information needed to obtain a certificate. The indexes for 1837 through 1930 are on microfiche and are located in the Microprint Area on the second floor of the main Clayton Library building.
Searching the indexes:
What are you looking for - a birth, marriage or death?
After you decide which index to use, next you need to know an approximate time period. Each year is alphabetically divided into quarters and you may have to search each quarter. When your record is found, it will give the person's name, district, volume and page number. Example:
March Qtr 1839
Note: In this example from the Birth Index, the birth of Morgan Sanderson was registered sometime during the first three months of 1839. The birth was registered on page 641 of volume 22 in the subdistrict office of Wortley, which is in the West Riding of Yorkshire. See the GRO Index Finding Aid notebook at Clayton for a guide to district names and locations.
Copy all of the information from the index. (Clayton Library does not have the actual certificates.)
Certificates can now be ordered online, which is faster and less expensive than ordering by mail. To order a certificate online click here.
You can also order a certificate by mail, but you will need a form from the General Register Office (GRO) to do so.
- You can photocopy the form from Clayton's Forms notebook - or -
- You can copy it from the General Register Office's website by clicking here.
You may also be able to obtain certificates from local register offices in England and Wales. Check with the reference desk at Clayton for assistance.
- Many of the early records are handwritten.
- The indexes are arranged based on the date of registration, not the date of the event.
- Before 1912, the marriage index does not list the bride's and groom's names together. If you know both names, you may wish to check both entries to be sure you have the correct reference.
- Although registration was introduced in 1837, not all locations complied with the system immediately. You may wish to consult parish church records for events not recorded in the indexes. Although Clayton Library does not have these records, we can assist you to identify which records are needed and how to obtain them.
Related resources at Clayton Library:
Clayton Library has an extensive collection of materials on Great Britain. The following sources are particurlarly useful when consulting the GRO Vital Records Indexes:
- GRO Index Finding Aid Notebook -- A notebook compiled by Clayton staff contains sample index entries, forms for ordering certificates, and photocopies of actual certificates obtained from the General Register Office. A list of subdistrict offices in alphabetical order appears at the end of the book. [shelved in Clayton's Microprint area]
- Registration and Census Districts for England and Wales -- Maps showing the main district boundaries and locations of subdistrict offices. [shelved in Clayton's Microprint area]
- The Phillimore Atlas and Index of Parish Registers -- Contains maps of parish boundaries that can help identify the parishes closest to the registration subdistricts. Also lists types and dates of available records for each parish. [P556 GR BRT]
- Ancestral Trails: the Complete Guide to British Genealogy and Family History -- This excellent and comprehensive guide to British genealogy research includes detailed information on the system of civil registration introduced in 1837 and provides examples of the types of certificates that can be ordered from the General Register Office. [H535 GR BRT]
- AA Great Britain Road Atlas -- The detailed maps in this modern road atlas show small villages and hamlets not included in other indexes and gazetteers. If you've heard that your ancestors came from Wigtwizzle, this atlas may be the fastest way to determine in which subdistrict their births are likely to be registered. [A111 GR BRT]
- 1851 and 1881 Censuses of Britain on CD-ROM -- These multiple-CD sets published by the LDS Church contain a partial transcription of the 1851 census of England and a complete transcription of the 1881 census of England and Wales. Cross-checking birthplace and place of residence in the census with registration subdistricts can help to identify the correct GRO index entries, especially for common surnames. [in Clayton's CD-ROM collection]
- Ancestry Library Edition -- (one of the major genealogy databases to which the library subscribes) As of April 2007, Ancestry has everyname indexes for the 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, and 1901 censuses of England, Scotland and Wales. These indexes are linked to images of the censuses for 1841-1901 for England and Wales. Census images for Scotland can be obtained for a fee from Scotland's People. Ancestry also allows access to the Free BMD database for births, marriages and deaths.
Some useful links..