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Get the best out of the GRO website

The General Register Office (GRO) indexes are a crucial resource for family history research in England and Wales, enabling us to follow our ancestors’ lives from cradle to grave. Here genealogist Emma Jolly provides step-by-step tips for clever searching…

Search smarter!

Since 2003, family historians have been using the General Register Office (GRO) website to order certificates online. The GRO is part of Her Majesty’s Passport Office and oversees civil registration in England and Wales. It maintains the national archive of all births, marriages and deaths dating back to 1837. The website was initially available for UK residents only, but was later opened up to international customers.

Throughout this period, family historians used paper or online indexes to find the reference required to order birth, marriage and death certificates. The necessary details include full name(s), year of event, quarter of event, registration district, volume number, and page number. Searches could be made online for free at FreeBMD www.freebmd.org.uk but this site is maintained by volunteers and is not fully comprehensive.

In November 2016, there was great excitement in the genealogy community when the GRO launched its own searchable birth and death indexes on its website. Unlike other indexes of the records, these were even more useful for family historians as they included mothers’ maiden names for births, as well as ages at death. Previously, available indexes had only shown mothers’ maiden names for births after 1911, and ages at death from 1969. By February 2017, the website had searchable indexes of births 1837-1915 and deaths 1837- 1957. On 12 September 2019, the site was revamped and online indexes for deaths 1984-2019 were added and, more recently, for births 1984-2004, with more to follow.

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About Family Tree

Get smarter at tracking down those births, marriages & deaths with our step-by-step guide to using the latest online indexes. Join in with part 1 of our surname supersleuth series and unlock the family history clues hidden in your family name. Learn how to use DNA Painter and piece together the story of your genes. Find out about family history software to make your research so much more organised: an introduction to the key programs. And don’t forget to check out the Family Tree Live programme of family history lectures & workshops this spring. Find your pull-out guide inside! Hurry – some are fully booked already! Find inspiration, information and great ideas to help you trace your roots today with Family Tree...