British Intelligence: Civil Registrations

By Rick Crume Premium

Civil registration—the government recording of births, marriages and deaths—began in England and Wales in 1837 and in Scotland in 1855. Churches continued to maintain records after those dates, so if you don’t find a civil record, check church records.

The Family Records Centre in London holds indexes to English and Welsh civil records, but you can order microfilmed indexes up to 1983 through an FHC. Do a place search for England or Wales in the FHL catalog, and look at the subject heading Civil Registration—Indexes. Since the indexes cover only three-month periods, locating a name can be hard if you don’t have an approximate date. You’ll have an easier time searching the following online indexes for English and Welsh records: This paid-access index has 255 million entries covering birth records as far back as 1865.

FreeBMD: Covering the years 1837 to 1983, this index includes more than 90 million records.

FindMyPast: Search complete indexes to births, marriages and deaths from 1837, plus vital records of British nationals overseas from 1761 to 1994. Access on a pay-per-view basis or by subscription.

Once you have a full index reference, visit the General Register Office website to request a copy of an English or Welsh civil record. The agency usually processes the requests within a couple of weeks.

For online indexes to Scottish civil records, visit ScotlandsPeople, Scotland’s official online source for church, vital and census documents. Indexes cover births from 1553 to 1903, marriages from 1553 to 1928 and deaths from 1855 to 1953. Many index entries link to digital images of the original records.

The General Register Office for Scotland stores Scottish civil records and indexes. You can order the indexes for 1855 to 1956 and the records for 1855 to 1875, 1881 and 1891 through an FHC.