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Helping you to GRO

01 Apr 2010

I have received a letter asking about GRO information for birth or marriage certificates prior to 1837 in the UK. GRO stands for General Register Office, and if you are wondering about anything genealogical, or have a new place, occupation etc, then I suggest you go to the FamilySeach wiki (make the FamilySearch wiki your first port of call for anything genealogical).

At gro.gov.uk , click on ‘Visit Directgov’ and then ‘Family history and research’. Read all about it! However, Civil Registration started in July 1837 for England and Wales, so no one can obtain certificates prior to this date.

For events preceding this date, we need to go to Church Records. First port of call is familysearch. This is the Web site for the millions of records collected and made available by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. To look for church records, I would click on Advanced Search, then International Genealogical Index – the IGI. This is a marvellous site for church records for England, Scotland and Wales in particular.

Many years ago, LDS Church members extracted names from parish registers and keyed these names into the IGI database. Most of the entries are for a birth, baptism, or marriage. So, you can search for a person’s birth or baptism – key in what you know, but remember less is best. Try with just the forename and surname and region. Then, if you receive lots of hits, add in the country, then the county. You might like to add a year – and specify 2, 5, 10 or 20 years either side of the year.

For marriages, just one person is fine, and just a surname for the second person is okay. You always have to select a region – British Isles for the UK and Ireland, Southwest Pacific for Australia and New Zealand.

I like the parent search: enter the father’s name, and just forename for the mother – unless the event is in Scotland, because maiden names are not usually recorded in England and Wales baptisms. If you get too many hits, you need to add a country, county or time frame. Go to Search Records, Record Search Pilot, for new records, just indexed.

You can also find  a ‘backdoor’ entry to the same IGI database, if you know your parish.

Now more church records, including Nonconformist records, are available on pay to- view sites. Go to www. bmdregisters.co.uk or www. thegenealogist.co.uk There are some ‘certificates’ there too. See also findmypast for baptisms, marriages and burial records (In the UK and overseas and ‘at sea’), and www.ancestry.com.au (this has the UK databases also).

Watch for OnLine Parish Clerks – – some counties have these. All genealogical information is collected for a parish, and questions answered by email. Also ukbmd.org.uk has lots of links to sites that offer online transcriptions of UK births, marriages and deaths (and census).