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.
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.
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.
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
You will not normally be interested in the volume but more information about
it, and the format used, is here.
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:
1st Jul 1911
Mother's Maiden Name
1st Jan 1912
1st Jan 1866
Age at Death
1st Apr 1969
Date of Birth (replaced Age at Death)
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.
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