New improved indexes to births and deaths are now online.
The General Register Office (GRO) has made available online new free indexes for births and deaths, based on the digitisation of the English and Welsh civil registration records that was carried out a few years ago.
The new GRO birth index covers the period 1837-1915. Unlike the existing indexes on the FreeBMD, Ancestry, Findmypast and TheGenealogist websites (which are all based on the original GRO printed indexes), the new GRO index holds the mother’s maiden surname from 1837 onwards, rather than from July 1911 onwards in the other indexes.
The new GRO death index covers the period 1837-1957. The age at death is given from 1837 onwards in the new index, rather than from 1866 onwards in the existing indexes.
There is no new index for marriages.
Trial of PDF copies of certificates
From Wednesday 9 November for three weeks, the GRO will be running a trial in which you can choose to receive uncertified PDF copies of certificates by email for £6 each, instead of having to order paper copies that are delivered by post at £9.25 each. Only 45,000 copies will be sent by PDF, so the trial may not last as long as three weeks.
First of all, let me praise Peter Calver for his excellent Lost Cousins Newsletter, which brought me all the above information. Peter has been hassling the GRO for some years now about civil registration certificates, so congratulations, Peter. Well done!
The new indexes are very helpful, and I don’t like to quibble, but … you can only search over a five-year period, so if you want to cover a larger time-span, you have a search several times. On top of that, you have to search for male and female births separately.
That’s just quibbling, I know, but what is bad is that you have to specify the child’s surname at birth (which you may not know), and can’t search using only the mother’s maiden surname. And if you’re looking for an illegitimate child, don’t put the mother’s maiden name into the search (as you would do with the existing indexes). In the results list, the mother’s maiden name is simply shown with a dash in cases of illegitimacy.
Regarding the cost of the PDF certificate copies, although £6 is obviously an improvement on £9.25, it’s four times as expensive as an online BMD record from ScotlandsPeople – and for Ireland, they’re free of charge!