Now What? GRO Records

By David A. Fryxell Premium

Q. I can’t find my ancestors in Lancashire, England, in the General Register Office (GRO) indexes to birth, marriage and death records. Could the index contain errors? Where else could I look?

A. The General Register Office maintains vital records for England and Wales beginning in 1837. Indexes to these records are available at several subscription websites as well as the volunteer Free-BMD site (which is still in progress). You can use an index entry to order a copy of the complete birth, marriage or death certificate from the GRO. The certificates themselves aren’t online.


Genealogists have found many errors and omissions in the index, however, and entries—especially for earlier years—can be challenging to decipher. The original copies of these birth, marriage and death records are actually in local register offices, and some offices have joined with genealogy groups to create independent indexes. These contain information missing or incorrect in the GRO indexes. You can order the actual certificate from the local office if you can identify the right one—which can be tricky because of periodic reorganizations.


The helpful GENUKI website has an index to places in England and Wales to get you started. It lists each “>county’s registration districts, with historical changes. GENUKI’s guide to local register offices includes each office’s postal address, telephone and fax, email, payment information, website and links to any online indexes or ordering pages. Lancashire is one of the counties indexing its birth, marriage and death records online. The free index isn’t yet complete, but the site does off er online ordering. For other parts of the United Kingdom, you can check the list of online certificate ordering sites at .

From the September 2014 issue of Family Tree Magazine

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