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Civil Registration, Death (England & Wales)

Nature of Source

Certificates and indexes of civil registered deaths introduced after the passing of the Births and Deaths Registration Act of 1836. Civil registration was introduced from 1 July 1837 which meant that all births, marriages and deaths had to be reported to the register office in the district where the event took place. The original registration districts were usually based on the poor law union area with a Superintendent Registrar officiating in each district. In later years, the registration districts tied in with local authority administrative area. The national indexes were compiled from entries sent quarterly to the General Register Office in London. The indexed entries had been copied into national registers from those kept by the local registry office. This process created scope for errors in copying from one source to another but also be aware that many civil registration certificates contain outright lies. Also note that after 1911, the indexes do not include the person’s full middle name but only the initial.

The original indexes from 1837 were handwritten on velum which can be difficult to decipher but after 1866 printed indexes were introduced. In 1984 annual indexes replaced the quarterly indexes and digital indexes replaced paper indexes. For a an explanation of the area and volume codes used in the indexes and their corresponding registration districts see here. Please note that Roman numerals were used from 1837 to 1851 and Arabic numerals and letters from 1852 to 1946 for the index reference codes.

An online ordering service is available at www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/certificates

After 1875 registration was enforced more rigorously with fines imposed for non registration, however unlike birth, most deaths were registered. The age of the deceased on certificate is often approximate and a burial could take place before the death was registered. From 1875 official medical certificates certified by a doctor stating the cause of death were introduced. Before this reform, the cause of death was often supplied by the informant who might have had little or no medical knowledge. On earlier certificates the cause of death might be stated as 'visitation of god'. The term was used as a way of explaining death by an unknown cause which would later be understood as death by 'natural causes'. Sometimes an inquest into a death took place conducted by a coroner. Please see Coroner & Inquest Records for more details. Consult local newspapers for a possible obituary. Death certificates should be obtained for all family members. Also look for funeral and death notices and obituaries, often found in local newspapers, for evidence of a death. 

The Channel Islands began civil registration in the 1840s. In the Isle of Man, births and deaths from 1878 and marriages from 1884.

Check the local superintendent registrar's office if an entry is missing from the national index as local registrars compiled their own indexes from their original records. Some of these registers have been deposited at the local record office and some are online. Check with UK BMD for links to local transcriptions. The site provides links to web sites that offer on-line transcriptions of UK births, marriages, deaths, parish registers and census returns. The links are mainly to local registrars that are offering on line access to their civil registration indexes. Users can also carry out a multi-region UKBMD search at www.ukbmdsearch.org.uk which allows for searches across one or more county. Other miscellaneous indexes are also covered.

See also
Cemetery & Crematoria Records
Civil Registration - Birth, Marriages & Deaths At Sea
Civil Registration, Birth
Civil Registration, Marriage
Consular and Overseas Records of Births/Baptisms, Marriages and Deaths/Burials
Monumental Inscriptions
Parish Registers-Burials

Where Found

General Register Office for England and Wales (Full Certificates of birth marriage and death. The facility to search GRO historic birth and death index references online is now available through the website. See below for more details)

Complete set of indexes are available at the following sites:
British Library Social Sciences Reading Room (General Register Office indexes to Births, Marriages and Deaths in England and Wales, 1837 to present. The records are available on microfiche with additional free access to digitised GRO indexes via Ancestry and FindMyPast websites covering 1837 to 2005/6)
City of Westminster Archives Centre (The centre provides access to the General Register Office's published indexes of births, marriages and deaths on microfiche as well as indexes to adopted children 1927 to 2016 and overseas indexes. Free access is available to digitised GRO indexes via Ancestry and FindMyPast)
Manchester City Library (General Register Office indexes to Births, Marriages and Deaths in England and Wales, 1837 to present. The records are available on microfiche with additional free access to digitised GRO indexes via Ancestry and FindMyPast websites covering 1837 to 2005/6)
Birmingham Central Library (General Register Office indexes to Births, Marriages and Deaths in England and Wales, 1837 to present. The records are available on microfiche with additional free access to digitised GRO indexes via Ancestry and FindMyPast websites covering 1837 to 2005/6)
Bridgend Local and Family History Centre (General Register Office indexes to Births, Marriages and Deaths in England and Wales, 1837 to present. The records are available on microfiche with additional free access to digitised GRO indexes via Ancestry and FindMyPast websites covering 1837 to 2005/6)
Plymouth Central Library (General Register Office indexes to Births, Marriages and Deaths in England and Wales, 1837 to present. The records are available on microfiche with additional free access to digitised GRO indexes via Ancestry and FindMyPast websites covering 1837 to 2005/6)
Newcastle City Library (General Register Office indexes to Births, Marriages and Deaths in England and Wales, 1837 to present. The records are available on microfiche with additional free access to digitised GRO indexes via Ancestry and FindMyPast websites covering 1837 to 2005/6)

County Record Offices (Regional coverage)

Period Covered

1837 - Onwards

Genealogical Value

Index
Name, age (from 1866), birthdate (from 1st April 1969), Registration District, Volume and Page.
Certificate
Date of death and address where died; Full name and age from 1866; Occupation and cause of death; Date of birth from 1969; Name and residence of informant; Date registered.

Further References

Annal, David. Using Birth, Marriage and Death Records: Public Record Office, 2002  Buy Now on Amazon
Annal, David & Collins, Audrey. Birth, Marriage and Death Records: A Guide for Family Historians: Pen & Sword Books, 2012  
Cohen, Deborah, Family Secrets: Living with Shame from the Victorians to the Present Day: Viking, 2013  Buy Now on Amazon
Foster, Michael Whitfield. A Comedy of Errors, or, The Marriage Records of England and Wales, 1837-1899: Mike Foster, 1998  Buy Now on Amazon
Foster, Michael Whitfield. A Comedy of Errors. Act 2: Mike Foster, 2002  Buy Now on Amazon
General Register Office, Abstract of Arrangements Respecting Registration of Births, Marriages and Deaths in the United Kingdom and other Countries of the British Commonwealth and in the Republic of Ireland: HMSO, 1952  
Gibson, Jeremy & Hampson, Elizabeth. Marriage, Census and Other Indexes for Family Historians. 5th ed: FFHS, 1994 Buy Now on Amazon
Gibson, Jeremy; Hampson, Elizabeth; Raymond, Stuart. Marriage Indexes for Family Historians. 9th rev. ed.: The Family History Partnership, 2007  Buy Now on Amazon
Grundy, Joan. A Dictionary of Medical & Related Terms for the Family Historian: Swansong Publications, 2006 Buy Now on Amazon
Heritage, Celia. Tracing Your Ancestors through Death Records: A Guide for Family Historians: Pen and Sword Books, 2015
Higgs, Edward. Life, Death And Statistics: Civil Registration, Censuses And The Work Of The General Register Office, 1836-1952: Local Population Studies, 2004  Buy Now on Amazon
Langston, Brett. A Handbook to the Civil Registration Districts of England and Wales: Family History Partnership, 2003  Buy Now on Amazon
Meller, Hugh. London Cemeteries: An Illustrated Guide and Gazetteer: Sutton Publishing, 2000 Buy Now on Amazon
Philpot, Terry. 31 London Cemeteries: To Visit Before You Die: Step Beach Press, 2013 Buy Now on Amazon
Raymond, Stuart. Births, Marriage & Deaths on the Web: Southern England, The Marches and Wales. Vol 1: Family History Partnership, 2005  
Raymond, Stuart. Births, Marriage & Deaths on the Web: Midlands, Northern England and East Anglia. Vol 2: Family History Partnership, 2005  
Thomas, Amanda. The Lambeth Cholera Outbreak of 1848-1849: McFarland and Co, 2009 (includes references to and indexes of individual cases) Buy Now on Amazon
Wiggins, Ray. Registration Districts: An Alphabetical List of Over 650 Districts: Society of Genealogists, 2001  Buy Now on Amazon
Wills, Simon. How Our Ancestors Died: A Guide for Family Historians: Pen & Sword, 2013
Wood, Tom. An Introduction to British Civil Registration. 2nd ed: FFHS, 2001  

Websites

www.gov.uk/government/publications/discover-your-family-history (General Register Office: Discover your family history. This booklet tells you how to use the GRO when you research your family tree and family history
www.gov.uk/government/collections/general-register-office-guides-to-researching-your-family-tree (General Register Office guides to researching your family tree: guide to birth certificates; guide to marriage certificates; guide to death certificates)
www.gov.uk/research-family-history (Research your family history using the General Register Office)
www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/certificates/most_customers_want_to_know.asp#FamilyHistory (GRO Guide: Most customers want to know)
http://media.nationalarchives.gov.uk/index.php/early-civil-registration (The National Archives Media: Early civil registration)
http://home.clara.net/dixons/Certificates/indexbd.htm (England and Wales Birth, Marriage, and Death Certificate Information)
www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/CivilRegistration.html (England: Civil Registration guide)
www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/civreg/GROIndexes.html (GRO Indexes Registration Districts with codes for areas and volumes)
www.ukbmd.org.uk/reg/index.html (UKBMD: Registration Districts in England and Wales: Composition of the civil registration districts in England since 1837 to the present and in Wales between 1837 and 1996. The same districts were also used to compile the census for the years 1851 to 1911. See here for an alphabetical list of the registration districts)
www.ukbmd.org.uk/reg/places/index.html (UKBMD: Index of Places in England and Wales. For each place listed this index shows the county and registration district in which it was situated between 1837 and 1974 at which latter date the districts were considerably altered)
www.freebmd.org.uk/DistrictInfo.html
(FreeBMD: Registration District Information. Information about Registration Districts with a list of official districts)
http://maps.familysearch.org (Maps showing the administrative areas and units of England. For each place name the parish is shown and gives start date for parish registers and Bishop Transcripts. The name of the appropriate Probate Court, Diocese, Province, Poor Law Union and Hundred is shown. Contiguous parishes and parishes within a specified radius can be displayed. In addition map layers can be displayed showing boundaries for the Civil Registration District, the Parish, the County, the Diocese and other administrative areas)
www.ancestrysolutions.com/referencecentre/refcharts/CivRegEnglandWales.html (Ancestry Solutions: Civil Registration: Content, commencement date, indexes and how to obtain civil birth, marriage and death certificates)
www.kdfhs.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&id=43&Itemid=102 (Keighley and District Family History Society: Research Guide: Birth Marriage and Death records in England & Wales - Key Dates)
www.genealogylinks.net/uk/index.html (Links to online genealogy records & other useful information)
http://places.wishful-thinking.org.uk/LocalRegistration.html (Wishful Thinking: A Historical Account of the Development of Local Registration Offices in England and Wales, by Rosemary Lockie)
www.londongardensonline.org.uk
(London Gardens Online. Online access to information on cemeteries/burial grounds across the whole of London covering C of E, Jewish, Roman Catholic, Quaker and other denominations as well as churchyards and burial grounds)
www.pennyparker2.com/appxchart.html (Period Approximation Chart, adapted from "Basic Course in Genealogy," Vol.II, by Derek Harland. Use to calculate the approximate date of a birth, marriage or death)
www.archaicmedicalterms.com (Rudy's List of Archaic Medical Terms. A glossary of archaic medical terms, diseases and causes of death and their old and modern definitions)
www.medterms.com (Online medical dictionary)
www.victorianweb.org/victorian/science/health/index.html (Victorian Web: Nineteenth-Century British Medicine and Public Health)
www.bl.uk/learning/histcitizen/victorians/health/victorianhealth.html (British Library: Learning: Victorians: Health)
http://wellcomelibrary.org/moh
(Wellcome Library: London's Pulse: Medical Officer of Health reports 1848-1972. The website allows you to search more than 5500 Medical Officer of Health reports from the Greater London area. The site also has a Health of London timeline)
www.londonburials.co.uk (Listing of burial grounds)
www.londoncemeteries.co.uk (Information on & photos of London cemeteries)
http://homepage.ntlworld.com/hitch/gendocs/cem.html (Victorian London Cemeteries)
www.pennyparker2.com/appxchart.html (Period Approximation Chart, adapted from "Basic Course in Genealogy," Vol.II, by Derek Harland. Use to calculate the approximate date of a birth, marriage or death)
www.genealogytoday.com/guide/funeral_cards.html (Funeral Cards Online)
www3.sympatico.ca/bkinnon/obit_links.htm (Free Obituaries On-Line: Links to obituaries, death or funeral notices mostly from newspapers across the world with a focus on Canada)
www.genealogyforum.com/gfaol/resource/Funeral.htm (Researching Funeral Home Records)
http://genealogy.about.com/cs/funeralhomes (Links to resources dealing with funeral homes and funeral cards)

Online Databases

National GRO Coverage
www.freebmd.org.uk (FreeBMD: FreeBMD is an ongoing project, the aim of which is to transcribe the Civil Registration index of births, marriages and deaths for England and Wales, and to provide free Internet access to the transcribed records. Free access to the records is also available via ancestry.co.uk covering 1837-1915)
www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/certificates/default.asp (General Register Office for England and Wales: Search the GRO historic birth and death indexes and order certificates online. These are birth records from 1837 to 1915 and death records from 1837 to 1957. Please note that the age at death is shown on all the GRO online death indexes from 1837 onwards. Marriages have not yet been digitised. Customers must have a registered GRO online certificate ordering account to use the service)
www.findmypast.co.uk (GRO Birth, Marriage and Death indexes, including overseas BMD indexes. The civil birth and death registers are fully indexed by name covering 1837-2006. Marriage indexes are fully indexed from 1837-2005 and the MarriageFinder which will match up your ancestors' records providing you with one definite marriage match or a list of possible matches)
www.thegenealogist.co.uk (BMD Records 1837-2005: Complete Birth, Marriage & Death records index for England and Wales as published by the GRO. The indexes are searchable in database format from 1837-2005 for Marriages with the facility to match and cross-reference one name with another surname, 1837-2005 for Births and 1950-2005 for Deaths)
www.ancestry.co.uk (England & Wales, Birth and Marriage Indexes, 1916-2005; Death Index, 1916-2007. Searchable, digitized version of the indices of civil registrations in England and Wales reported quarterly to the General Register Office in London. Also free access to the FreeBMD Birth, Marriage and Death Indexes, 1837-1915)
www.familyrelatives.com (General Register Office Civil Birth, Marriage and Death Registration Indexes 1837-2005. Records between 1866 to 1920 and 1984 to 2005 have been fully transcribed and are fully searchable. For the period between 1837 to 1865 and 1921 to 1983 the images are not fully transcribed but searchable on surname range and browseable with images of the GRO Index. Users also have free access to British overseas BMDs from 1761)
https://familysearch.org (England and Wales, Death Index 1800-1920)
BMD Registers (BMDs at sea, 1854-1891)
Local Coverage
www.thbmd.co.uk/search.php (Tower Hamlets Indexes of Births, Deaths & Marriages)
www.findmypast.co.uk
(Derbyshire Registrar's Birth, Marriage and Death Index)
ww3.gloucestershire.gov.uk/bmd/MainMenu.aspx (Gloucestershire BMD Indexes: The aim of the project is to index all the registers held by the Gloucestershire Registration Service. All births registered in the county between 1837 and at least 1912 have been indexed; All deaths registered in Gloucestershire between 1837 and at least 1900 have been indexed and all marriage registers stored by GRS at Gloucestershire Archives have been indexed. The indexing is carried out by volunteers from the Gloucestershire Family History Society in conjunction with the Gloucestershire Registration Service and Gloucestershire Archives)
www.lancashirebmd.org.uk (Lancashire BMD. Online access to the birth, marriage and death indexes held by the local registration services developed in partnership with the county's Family History Societies. See website for date coverage and registration districts covered. Lancashire BMD is part of the UKBMD group of Family History and Genealogy web sites)
www.camdex.org.uk/search.cfm
(CAMDEX: Index of Births, Marriages, Civil Partnerships and Deaths in Cambridgeshire since 1837 in association with the Cambridgeshire Family History Society and Cambridgeshire County Council. The index is available to review by members of the public free of charge: copies of BMD certificates can be ordered and paid for on-line from the CCC Registration Service)
www.calderdale.gov.uk/v2/residents/leisure-and-culture/local-history-and-heritage/local-studies-and-family-history/birth (Calderdale Council. Indexed birth, marriage and death notices for the entire period of the Halifax Guardian’s existence from December 1832 to April 1921)
www.ukbmd.org.uk (Whereabouts of local registrar and links to online transcribed indexes)
www.hunimex.com/warwick/index.html (Pickard's Pink Pages for Warwickshire: Warwickshire newspaper extracts covering births, marriages and deaths)
www.iannounce.co.uk (Family announcements from newspapers in the UK and Ireland covering obituaries, death, marriage, birth and other family announcements)

CD Roms

S & N Genealogy Supplies (Indexes to Overseas BMDs, 1916-1940)
www.lfhhs.org.uk/shop/cds/index.htm (Lancashire Family History and Heraldry Society: Andrew Todd's map of Lancashire 1851 showing the Registration Districts of Births, Marriages & Deaths, Registration Sub-Districts, Parishes, Townships and all Anglican churches and dates of their earliest registers)