Searching for and ordering Birth, Marriage and Death Certificates

The General Register Office (GRO) holds copies of all registrations for England and Wales from 1837 onwards. You can search the GRO index by visiting the FREEBMD Project at http://www.freebmd.org.uk 

As the name suggests, FreeBMD is a site that provides free access to all Birth, Marriage and Death records for England and Wales from the latter half of 1837 to about 1969, although the transcribing of records from circa 1916 onwards has yet to be completed. Once you have conducted your search, you may want to order an extracted copy of the original certificate for your records and further research.

There are two ways in which to order certificates: 

The General Register Office 

Obtaining a certificate from the General Register Office is relatively straightforward although the onus is on you to ensure that the certificate being ordered is relevant to your research. You will need the GRO reference which is the Volume and Page Number provided in the search results on FreeBMD.

The GRO can be visited at their website http://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/certificates/ for further information including costs and ordering procedures.

For ancestors whose life events were registered in Scotland, certificate orders can be placed through the General Register Office for Scotland (GROS).

Local Register Offices

You need to find the Register Office that is relevant to the Birth, Marriage or Death in which you are interested. This information, as well as other useful details, can be found on the FreeBMD website. 

In order to obtain a 'true' copy of the original certificate it is best to ring the register office in order to establish what their process is for ordering certificates as this does vary between offices.

What you can expect to discover about your ancestors from a certificate:


The details contained on a full birth certificate include:

  • Name, date and place of birth
  • Father's name (if given at time of registration), place of birth and occupation
  • Mother's name, place of birth, maiden surname and occupation (post 1984) 

The details contained on a marriage certificate include:

  • Date and place of marriage
  • Name, age and marital status of both parties
  • Occupation and usual address
  • Name and occupation of each party's father 
  • Names of the witnesses
  • Name of the person who solemnised the marriage



The details contained on a death certificate include:

  • Name, date and place of death
  • Date and place of birth (before 1969 a certificate only showed the age of the deceased)
  • Occupation and usual address
  • Cause of death
  • The person who provided information for the death registration

 Additional information on the registration of Birth, Marriage and Death and its relevance to family history research can also be obtained by visiting the central government website at http://www.direct.gov.uk .