FreeBMD GRO Index

This page gives information about the GRO Index which is the original data from which the information in FreeBMD has been transcribed. Understanding the content of the GRO Index will enable you to use FreeBMD more effectively.

Basic Content of the Index

The GRO Index contains a summary of the registration information held by the government organisation called the General Register Office (GRO). The GRO Index has been produced by the GRO and is available from a number of sources online (including FreeBMD) as well as physically accessing the the microfilm of the orginal paper pages (see here for more information). One typical type of GRO Index page is shown below.

Index page sample

Some years are available as hand written pages, some as transcriptions by the GRO of the hand written pages and some as typeset pages.

So in searching FreeBMD you are searching the entries on these pages and you will be using the different values to narrow down the results to the entry you are interested in. So, in a simple case, you could search for a particular surname, with a particular given name in a particular quarter. However, there may be other values you need to use depending on the circumstances. The different values of the page are

This identifies whether page refers to Births, Marriages or Deaths.
This identifies which quarter the registration took place.
District, Volume, Register Page
This identifies the entry for the GRO and is explained more fully here although the District also gives an indication of where the event took place, although the District is the Registration District which may be different from the nearest town to the event.
Index Page
This identifies the page of the index. You would not normally need to be concerned with this value except when you wanted to view the orginal index.

Things to consider

It is worth emphasising the obvious, which is that what has been recorded by the GRO may not be what you expect. For example, people may be known by a given name that is not their first given name, or may not even be any of their registered given names. And spelling may vary, for example in the extract above there are entries for TRIM and TRIMM, which may or may not be the official spelling of a person's name. This is especially an issue for Death entries where the information will have come from the informant who may not actually have known the deceased that well, or have access to their birth certificate.
Entries are grouped by quarter but this is not the same as when the event took place - registration may be delayed and may be in a later quarter especially if the event took place at the end of a quarter. Births can be registered some considerable time after the birth took place.
Given names
Be very careful with searching on more than the first given name because in some quarters only initials were entered in the index for second and subsequent given names. See here for more details.
Only search on the district if you are certain you know what it is or as a last resort. The reason for this is that the district name may not be what you expect it to be - and the same applies to counties. For more information on this see here.
You will not normally be interested in the volume but more information about it, and the format used, is here.

Additional information

Over time the GRO added further information into the index which can be very useful in finding the right entry. The information added, and the date it was added, is as follows:
DateQuarterInformation addedEvent
1st Jul 1911Sep 1911Mother's Maiden NameBirths
1st Jan 1912Mar 1912Spouse's SurnameMarriages
1st Jan 1866Mar 1866Age at DeathDeaths
1st Apr 1969Jun 1969Date of Birth (replaced Age at Death)Deaths

The format for the Date of Birth is DDMMYYYY where DD is a one or two digit day, YYYY is the year and MM is the month as below

So, for example, if you were searching for a Birth that had very common names using the Mother's Maiden Name might enable you to find the right entry. However, you need to be careful about such searches since if you search for a particular value you will get no results for entries prior to the date when such information was added to the index. So, for example, if you searched for Mother's Maiden Name is SMITH you would get no results prior to September quarter 1911. Also, of course, there is no point searching using data that is not in the index, for example Date of Birth when searching Marriages. FreeBMD will warn you about this.

Further details

As has been explained, the GRO Index contains only a summary of the information held by the GRO. To get more information you will need to purchase the certificate (or, more accurately, a certified copy of an entry in the register) and how to do this, and what the certificate contains, is explained here.

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