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General Register Office Indexes

The General Register Office Index is now available on the Ancestry Library Edition web site on computers in Birmingham Libraries.

Help sheet for Civil Registration

Civil registration

 PDF (Size: 332 Kb Type: pdf )

The General Register Office Indexes.

These are often described as the St. Catherine House Indexes, from the building where they used to be kept. They are one of the best starting points for family history, as the indexes include an alphabetical order of surnames for each year. The library has indexes only. Certificates are held at local Register Offices, where you can obtain copies, for a fee of , if you give details of the name, date and place.

Or you can order online at www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/certificates for a fee of if you have the GRO Index reference. Full details of charges can be found on this webpage www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/research/certificatefees

What do the GRO indexes show?

The indexes show all births, marriages and deaths registered in England and Wales from July 1837 to 2000.

The index shows in which period (three-monthly 1837-1983, annually from 1984) the birth, marriage or death was registered. It does not give the exact date. The microfiches are arranged in year groups. Most years (up to 1984) are divided into four quarters. You can usually have about five years worth of births, marriages or deaths records, if no-one else is using them. The earliest records, up to the mid 1860s, are handwritten. They are more difficult to use, and are bulky, so only two or three years are issued at a time.

Marriages and deaths are usually registered in the three-month period when they occurred. However, a delay of up to six weeks is permitted when registering a birth. A birth in November or December of one year may be in the records for the following year.


1837 - 1911, child's surname and first names only. 1912 onwards, child's surname, first names and mothers maiden name.


1837 - 1911, there are two entries, one for each spouse individually. You can check who married whom by seeing whether the volume and Office numbers are the same. 1912 onwards, there are two entries, and the surname of the partner appears in each.


1837 - 1865, names only.
1866 - 1969, the age at death is given.
1970 onwards, the date of birth is shown.

All entries give the name of the register office which holds the original certificate. This is usually the same as the name of the town.

Births, marriages and deaths of UK citizens abroad

These are not comprehensive. We hold some indexes - army and consular records for example. If you are visiting the Archives and Heritage Service of Birmingham Central Library, please ask at the main enquiry desk on Floor 6 for the card listing them.

Using the GRO Indexes in Archives and Heritage

The indexes are available from the enquiry desk on Floor 6. They are on microfiche, and are simple to use. Staff are happy to help you. Two of the microfiche machines can be booked in advance, by phoning, or in person at the counter. Further machines are available on a first-come, first-served basis. It is advisable to book a machine if you are travelling some distance, as the service is popular and is heavily used.

General Information

The Family Records Centre has recently closed. The services formerly offered by The National Archives at the Family Records Centre (FRC), relating to census returns, wills and other sources, are now available at The National Archives in Kew. Go to www.nationalarchives.gov.uk.

For the services formerly offered by the General Register Office at the FRC, relating to births, marriages, deaths, adoptions and civil partnerships, go to www.gro.gov.uk

Register Offices

If the local Register Office is unable to find the record you can write to the General Register Office at Southport giving in addition the district number of the Register Office and the page number, which are on the end of each entry.

General Register Office,
Smedley Hydro,
Trafalgar Road,

Register Office File
The Archives and Heritage Service keeps a list of all local Register Offices. Many registration districts have changed and some Register Offices have closed. The file shows which records have been transferred, and where they have been moved to.

Although these are the official civil records, no system is completely fool proof. Spellings of surnames may vary. A fine had to be introduced in 1875 for non-registration of births, as people had been failing to register them. At the other extreme, in the first few years of registration when registrars were paid according to the number of registrations, some births were invented and some records were poached from adjacent registration districts!

Archives and Heritage Service
Tel: 0121 303 4217 or 0121 303 4549 or 0121 303 4220
Fax: 0121 233 4458
Email: archives.heritage@birmingham.gov.uk

Ancestry library edition and how to print from it
Parish Registers - Church of England
Black Family History - African & African-Caribbean
Electoral Registers
International Genealogical Index (IGI)
Trade Directories
CD-ROMs & the Internet for family history
Information about external links on birmingham.gov.uk