A full English marriage certificate will give you:
Date of marriage
A marriage certificate will give more information about the bride and groom, including the bride's maiden name in some cases - this can allow you to trace your ancestors back from the bride as well as the groom. Certificates in England or Wales can be ordered on-line through the GRO (General Register Office). To order a certificate, simply follow the instructions on the GRO website, supplying the necessary data and a GRO Index reference. The full reference is usually a volume and page reference or an 'entry number' for later records, given with the year, quarter and district. This can be found by viewing the full record detail when searching BMD records on-line. Events from the last 50 years will require you to supply more information at application stage.
A marriage record is a any type of record or certificate that states the date and place where two individuals were married. The information on these records will vary depending on the religion and the person entering the information.
You can almost always find:
Bride's maiden name
You may also find:
You may discover from it:
An ancestor's marriage date and place
For records starting in the 1500's, Parish Records is the place to look. For records from 1837 - 2004, you can look at BMD Indexes.
A birth certificate will give you information about the family, including the maiden name of the mother and the birth place of both parents, which can allow you to trace your ancestors back another generation.
A full birth certificate will give you:
Date of birth
Certificates in England or Wales can be ordered on-line through the GRO (General Register Office). To order a certificate, simply follow the instructions on the GRO website, supplying the necessary data and a GRO Index reference. The full reference is usually a volume and page reference or an 'entry number' for later records, given with the year, quarter and district. Events from the last 50 years will require you to supply more information at application stage. To find the volume and page reference, you can go to BMDindex.co.uk and look up the references you need to be able to order a birth certificate.
A baptism record is a any type of record or certificate that states the date and place an individual was baptised into a church. These records are available from 1538 onwards, and are recorded in Parish Registers. They are an invaluable resource for researching your family tree because the census and official records of birth, marriage and death do not go back further than 1837.
Until 1813, the amount of information given is very basic. This included:
It was very uncommon for the mother to be mentioned, as this was considered to be unimportant. Although later on, the mother's name began to be stated, so a record would look something like this:
"Frederick the son of John Smith and his wife Anne was baptised".
If an illegitimate child was baptised, then the mother's name would be stated, with the word 'illegitimate' or similar in the margin.
In 1813, a new pre-printed parish baptism record book was introduced, and because of this, entries became more standardised. However, there was still no information recorded about the date of birth, although some Clergymen added this information, especially where the baptisms was for someone other than a child. You can find a date of birth on registers after about 1860.
The columns to be completed in the baptism register were:
Register entry number
For records after 1837, you will have to look at Birth Records.
Given that there were no birth certificates as such
in the 16/17c, take into account that a baptism year
isn't necessarily a birth year. For instance, quite
often children were baptised at 14 because they were
being apprenticed and needed proof of good character
(you are a church member, ergo you are of good
character) and a previous baptism as an infant had been
It is important to remember that people do not necessarily die in their own beds so it is quite possible that your ancestor was away visiting or working and died away from home and so will be registered in an unexpected registration district.
Most deaths are registered within a day or two of the date of death. The place of death could be anywhere, you do not necessarily have the address of the deceased, nowhere is there a column which gives the specific address of the deceased. If someone dies away from home and the death is registered by someone other than the wife or husband of the deceased you do not have the home address of the deceased.
The address shown may not give you the precise nature of the building. Institutions such as prisons or psychiatric hospitals have alternative addresses eg '24 London Road' which is used when someone is born or dies in an institution.
The address may be very vague in the early days of registration. It might simply be "Skipton" or "Enfield". By the 1860s there is often a street given and by the 1880s a fairly precise address would be given. If therefore you have an imprecise address eg King Street given when you would expect a precise address you are probably looking at the true place of death - ie the person really did die on King Street rather in a house on King Street.
Ages recorded must be viewed with a great deal of suspicion. Only if other evidence proves this correct should it be taken to be so. This is because the information is not being given by the person to whom it relates, it is being given by someone else and the more remote the relationship, the more vague will be the information. Where the information is being given by the master of the workhouse, or the neighbour who was sitting with the dying person, the less likely it is to be accurate. The other reason why the information may not be correct is because the deceased person has lied about it for most of their life or just did not know themselves when they were born and how old they were.
Especially in the early days of registration, it was not necessary for people to know exactly how old they were. In large families, especially where children have died and later children have been given the same name as an earlier one, the parents themselves would forget how old their own children were and when they were born.
For a man of working age, his occupation should be shown. In the last century most men had to work for as long as possible and could still be working at any age.
In the first 7 or 8 years of registration these patterns are very variable and all sorts of variations can be found but by 1845 the registrations appear to be more consistent.
Cause Of death, there are basically 4 possible scenarios:
In the early days of registration all the deaths were uncertified. The informant simply gave the cause as they saw it. And they were probably not far off the truth. You tend to get simple causes such as measles, stroke, gout, childbirth and so on. By 1845 most of the causes of death are followed by the word 'certified'. Where those words are not found then a doctor did not write a certificate of cause of death. Plenty of families who had sick and dying relatives would not necessarily have called a doctor to see the patient, after all doctors had to be paid.
Name and Surname of the Deceased is the name by which they were known at the time of death. If, therefore, someone started life with a different name but by usage has come to be called something else you will not find any reference to the original name on older certificates.
The description of the informant has varied with time. In the early days, the informant was one of the following:
someone present at the death
The person present at the death or in attendance (which meant they had been nursing the deceased or in close contact with them during their illness) was also usually a relative, but the early registrations do not give the relationship of the informant to the deceased.
It is always worth remembering with registrations before 1875 that an informant "present at the death", with a name you might not recognise, could be a married daughter that you have had no information on since she left home, or a granddaughter or grandson, son-in-law or any other relative likely to have a different surname from the deceased .
By 1875 the relationship of the informant to the deceased was given, together with additional qualifications such as "present at the death" or "in attendance". People not related to the deceased but present at the death still qualified, but only "present at the death" would be shown.
The occupier (usually the owner) of a house or institution (usually the master of the workhouse) still qualified but in addition the following had been added:
a person who found the body
The Date of Registration is normally very close to the date of death - or even the day of the death itself. Even today only 5 days is allowed for a death registration, or 14 if a coroners post-mortem is required. An Inquest has no time limit.
As with the other certificates in England or Wales, these can be ordered on-line through the GRO (General Register Office). To order a certificate, simply follow the instructions on the GRO website, supplying the necessary data and a GRO Index reference. The full reference is usually a volume and page reference or an 'entry number' for later records, given with the year, quarter and district. This can be found by viewing the full record detail when searching BMD records on-line. Events from the last 50 years will sometimes require you to supply more information at application stage.
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All the information here should only be used as a guideline and must not be relied on as primary evidence.