The BMD Registers: What are they and how do you search them?

The BMD Registers: What are they and how do you search them?

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Genealogy Resources

Researching your family history is rewarding and exciting.  Discovering where your family originate from provides a feeling like nothing else. A vital thing part of the research, though, is learning what records are available to you.

Civil Registration in England and Wales for births, marriages and deaths began on 1st July 1837. However, enforcement was not rigorous until 1875.  It is estimated that up to 10% of births between 1837 and 1875 were not registered.  The BMD registers are the indexes of these registrations.

The birth of Civil Registration meant that almost everyone left a straightforward paper trail from birth.  However, the BMD registers have changed considerably since 1837.  You can search all three indexes on any genealogy subscription website and FreeBMD.  Recently, the General Register Office has also launched searchable indexes for births and deaths.

Births

From 1st July 1837 registration of a birth of a child only around 90% of all births were registered.  The information contained in the Births Index from the 3rd quarter of 1837 until the 2nd quarter of 1911 was surname (rather obviously), first two full forenames (plus any subsequent initials), district of registration and reference number.  This changed in 3rd quarter of 1911 to the surname (again rather obvious), first forename (plus any subsequent initials), district of registration, reference number AND mother’s maiden surname.

Marriages

From the 1st July 1837, it was illegal not to register a marriage; however, some marriage records did not make it to the General Record Office.  From the 3rd quarter of 1837 to 4th quarter of 1911 the marriage index contained surname, first two full forenames (plus any subsequent initials), district of registration and reference number.  From the 1st quarter of 1912, two changes occurred; the first was the addition of the spouse’s surname, and the other showed the bride’s married name (if previously married) and maiden name.  This, however, was stopped in the 3rd quarter of 1962.

Deaths

Although Civil Registration started in 1837, compulsory registration of deaths was not enforced until 1875.  Since 1837 the Death index has been updated on numerous occasions.  From 3rd quarter of 1837, the index contained the surname of the deceased including the first two full names (plus any subsequent initials), district of registration and reference number.  In the 1st quarter of 1866, the age at death was added.  The information within the index changed in the 3rd quarter of 1911 to surname, first full forename (plus any subsequent initials), age at death, district of registration and reference number.  The last change to date happened in the 2nd quarter of 1969.  The age at death was replaced with the full date of birth of the deceased.

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