New information in GRO Indexes - direct from

Many readers will know by now that the good folk at the General Register Office (the home of the national collection of birth, marriage and death certificates and their associated indexes) have brought in new services.

Until now, the indexes for birth and death available to search in a myriad of places on the web - including FreeBMD and all the big genealogy subscription sites - have used information from the contemporary index volumes now deposited at Southport. For practical reasons, the amount of information that appears on the index for these events increases over the years. For example, early deaths (to 1866) included no age at death, and early births (to 1911) included no mother’s maiden name. This was due to the amount of space on the slips used in the early days to compile the alphabetised index, by hand, for the original volumes.

Now, the GRO have added these two pieces of information, which makes the database available superior to that found elsewhere. You will need to log in as if ordering a certificate ( and click ‘Search the GRO Indexes’.

When looking for a birth, you can search on as little as a surname (mandatory) and year (up to +/- 2 only). You will also need to specify a gender.  Additional search options include first and second forenames (not everyone will have a second registered), district, volume, page number and quarter.

The addition of mother’s maiden name revolutionises the search process for the earlier records and will have very positive implications when searching for a specific birth, especially if you are one of those searching for an elusive John Smith or William Jones. Provided you can find what you want, you can then click ‘Certificate’ or ‘PDF’ to order.

Additionally, the death index can be searched with similar parameters. The extra information that makes most difference is the addition of age of death (in years) of each person registered. This means you can now take an educated guess at which individual is ‘yours’ with less risk of confusing them with a child who died young, or others of a similar name in the district, for example. It will also make it simpler to identify possible siblings/children lost between censuses or to add to a One Name Study family.

While I’m yet to do lots of searches or comparisons with existing versions of the indexes, the information looks pretty good and is clearly presented. 

If that weren’t enough, the GRO are piloting pdf copies of records to be emailed to applicants as a further option to the usual postage service. The first phase of the pilot (running until 30 November, or until 45,000 have been ordered) includes:

Births: 1837 – 1934 and 2007 on
Deaths: 1837 – 1957 and 2007 on
Marriages: 2011 on
Civil Partnerships: 2005 on

Later, phases two and three will arrive; a three-hour pdf service and undigitised (so far) records respectively. Keep an eye on their website for further information as confirmed. I am yet to use the pdf service (£6 compared to the usual £9.25) although I’m sure I will very shortly, at which point I can comment further. 

A note on the records: always keep in mind that the GRO records are copies of those made locally. In some cases, transcription errors creep in between the earlier copies available from register offices / transferred to record offices or other repositories. Of course, there is still no guarantee that the error doesn’t appear on both versions, or even in original marriage registers or birth and death returns (where surviving) - I’ve had an interesting example of this recently! Prices vary, but in some cases it may be worth finding an earlier source or comparing the two.

It is also worth noting that, since the introduction of civil registration on 1 July 1837, it has always been compulsory to register births, marriages and deaths. It is estimated that up to 7% of events may be missing up until the 1870s – many fewer than a large number of genealogists believe. Remember to search different spellings, and consider that first name entries might be different to those you expect, or even given as ‘male’ or ‘female’. For more on the early history and details of civil registration, I’d recommend podcasts on the National Archives website (particularly those by Audrey Collins) as well as her book with David Annal, Birth, Marriage and Death Records: A Guide for Family Historians.

All in all, this is a fantastic development for researchers - with more to come in the future.

Unwritten History: Baby Loss Awareness Week

A brief post this to do my part to raise awareness of all those babies that never appeared on the birth indexes.

I don't often post very personal items here, but today I make an exception. Before my son was born this year we lost three babies, all at around twelve weeks gestation. As many as one in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage, which means even if you're not aware of it, the chances are that you know someone that has suffered at least one loss. In addition, far too many families still experience the pain of stillbirth or neonatal death. It's something individuals, and society as a whole, often finds difficult to talk about.

Whether they are recorded or not, those pregnancies are still part of our family history.

For support:


eBay Watch

Does anyone else have alerts set up on eBay for particular names, items related to particular places, etc?

I do.

So far, it's brought me the following with connections to my One Name Study:

- my own book (!)

- books on poodles, archiving, and 'Diana Dors: Only a Whisper Away'

- my cousin's treatise on the ovarian cyst (removal of, 1840s)

- another cousin's retirement as Queen Victoria's Consul in Cairo and associated presentation (recorded in the Gentleman's Magazine)

- a Lott and Walne sawbench!

It's also a great place to find everything from train tickets to postcards of particular places of interest.

Give it a go!


Norwich Mercury added to British Newspaper Archive site

As tweeted a few days ago, the Norwich Mercury has joined many years of the Norfolk Chronicle now searchable at

According to the site you can now view and search the following years:

1727; 1846-8; 1851-1896; 1899-1904. 

The collection within these years appears to be fairly comprehensive (issued Wednesday and Saturday). 213 issues were added just today, so those dates may be subject to change.

Other local papers noted in previous blogs include:

The Ipswich Journal

Bury and Norwich Post

Norfolk News

Framlingham Weekly News 

Diss Express

Suffolk Chronicle

Visit the website for further details. Remember, if you don't have a subscription, you can access these, and the rest of the site, free of charge at your local library. 

Archant publications the EDP and Evening News are notable exceptions to the titles available, but having the alternatives above digitised means you can very often find the date of an event more easily in another paper. This date can then help you find the alternate report in person at Norfolk Heritage Centre without browsing through several months.

Of course, that doesn't work for more recent events as most (though not all by any means) digitised issues are a century of so old, but certainly it's helpful for Victorian stories.

Titles missing or unclear on the website may be found at NHC on microfilm or in print where microfilm is unavailable. See the Newsplan website ( or contact for availability outside the British Library.