How to look for records of... Births, marriages and deaths in England and Wales
This is a brief guide to help you with your research. Records of births, marriages and deaths in England and Wales are kept in various places, but not usually at The National Archives. This guide will help you to find out where else you can look.
What do I need to know before I start?
Birth, marriage and death certificates cannot be viewed or ordered at The National Archives.
All certificates of births, marriages and deaths in England and Wales since 1 July 1837 are kept at the General Register Office (GRO).
If you are tracing a birth, marriage or death before 1 July 1837, look for parish registers in local archives.
A search for a certificate will be easier if you know the district where the event is likely to have taken place.
Indexes to birth, marriage and death registrations (1837 to 2007)
Search birth, marriage and death indexes on freebmd.org.uk. Some commercial websites (£) also have the indexes such as Findmypast and Ancestry. Some websites have more recent indexes than others.
For more information on the indexes see the General Register Office family history page on GOV.UK.
Non-conformist registers (primarily before 1837)
Registers of non-conformist births, baptisms, marriages, deaths and burials are held by The National Archives in record series RG4–RG8 and are available online.
Search BMDregisters (£) for records of:
- non-conformist and other non-parochial births and baptisms, deaths and burials, and some marriages for the 17th to 19th centuries (RG4, RG5, RG8)
- clandestine (irregular) marriages up to 1754 (RG 7)
- Quaker (or Religious Society of Friends) births, marriages and deaths up to 1837 (RG 6)
Note the BMD registers ‘advanced search’ option and ‘RG Books’ tab which will help you to search more specifically.
The non-conformist (RG4, RG5, RG 8), clandestine (RG7) and Quaker (RG6) registers are also available on Ancestry (£) where they can be searched or browsed using the ‘browse this collection’ option on the right hand side of the search page. This allows you to browse by series, place or denomination.
As most non-conformists were obliged to marry in the Church of England between 1754 and 1837, it is possible to find records of their marriages in Church of England parish registers (see below).
Selected church marriage registers (1837–c.1920)
View some church marriage registers from 1837 up to the 1920s on Ancestry (£) and Findmypast (£).
Records in other archives and organisations
Birth, marriage and death certificates (1837 to present)
Order birth, marriage or death certificates either from the General Register Office (£), or from the relevant local register office (£).
Indexes to birth, marriage and death registrations (1837 to present)
Use the GOV.UK website to find out which libraries, archives and record offices keep birth, marriage and death indexes on microfiche.
Parish registers (before 1837)
Find the parish register in a local archive to locate baptism, marriage and burial records before 1837. Look up the parish using English jurisdications 1851 or in The Phillimore Atlas and Index of Parish Registers, 3rd edition, edited by Cecil R Humphery-Smith (Phillimore, 2003).
Search for birth, baptism, marriage and some burial records on the FamilySearch website. Geographical coverage is patchy but the index provides a useful pointer to relevant parish registers.
Search for birth, baptism, marriage and burial records on Ancestry (£) findmypast (£) and Deceased Online (£).
Burial records for Brompton Cemetery can searched and viewed for free on the Royal Parks’ Brompton Cemetery database.
Visit The National Archives’ shop for a range of publications on birth, marriage and death records. Alternatively, look in The National Archives’ Library catalogue to see what is available to consult at Kew.
David Annal and Audrey Collins, ‘Birth, marriage and death records: a guide for family historians’ (Pen & Sword, 2012)
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