On 3rd November 2016 the General Register Office (GRO) quietly launched its own version of birth, marriage and death indexes via its usual Certificate Ordering Service.
The new front page includes a link to both order and search for certificates, as shown below:
At this time only the births for 1837-1915 and deaths for 1837-1957 can be searched.
Why is this so exciting for family historians?
Well, firstly the indexes have been created afresh from the register images themselves. This means that where you have been unable to find an entry before due to errors in the GRO indexes available on the major websites, there is a chance that the new index may include your entry. On the downside, it is likely that different errors have been introduced.
More importantly though:
The new birth indexes include mother’s maiden name for births BEFORE 1911.
The new death indexes include age at death for deaths BEFORE 1865.
This can make it really easy to find or confirm which birth or death entry is correct before having to order multiple certificates.
What can the new indexes reveal?
Here’s an example of how the new indexes can help. My great great grandparents, Joseph Hopkins and Isabella Wells, were recorded on the 1911 census as having had ten children, only five of whom had survived until 1911. I had identified nine children using a variety of sources, and a family grave lead me to believe the tenth child was an Edmund Hopkins. Searches for birth and deaths had so far been unsuccessful.
I used the new birth indexes to identify any Hopkins children born in the Aston or Birmingham registration districts in a twenty year period from Joseph and Isabella Wells’ marriage in 1869, with mother’s maiden name Wells. One birth appeared that I had not found before:
A search of the new death indexes to find an Edward James Hopkins who died between 1888 and the 1891 census found only:
It therefore seems that there is an error on my family grave. The missing child was Edward not Edmund. Excited to have potentially solved this puzzle I ordered both the birth and death for confirmation (see below).
Using the new search
The new search, whilst offering the potential to solve problems, is not exactly user friendly. A search range of only +/- 2 years is possible and males and females have to be searched for separately. A screen shot of the birth search screen can be seen below:
It is not possible to use wildcards in the search though there are options for “sounds similar” and “phonetically similar” searches. Where the mother’s maiden name is the same as the surname under which the child has been registered the mother’s maiden name seems to have been left blank or marked as – in these indexes. Hopefully this will be improved as things progress.
Certificates can still be ordered as before though there is an option to click on “order certificate” fro the search results, saving you having to type in the GRO index reference.
However, for a limited time only non-certified copies of some births, marriages and deaths can be order in PDF form at a reduced cost of £6. This type of ordering is limited to:
Births: 1837 – 1934 and 2007 on
Deaths: 1837 – 1957 and 2007 on
Marriages: 2011 on
Civil Partnerships: 2005 on
The service started on 9th November 2016 but is limited to the first 45,000 orders so be quick if you want to take advantage of this service.
I ordered my first batch of births and deaths on 9th November and they all arrived by email today (13th November). The image below shows the birth for Edward James Hopkins:
The details confirm to me that this is the child of interest. The copy of the death register indicates that Edward died at only 36 hours old.
I ordered around twenty birth and death register entry copies using this method on 9th November. All arrived today and only one is a little difficult to read (reflecting the usual variety of image quality of the certified copies).