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Tip of the day...Searching for a birth record

ProfilePosted byOptionsPost Date


mgnv Report 15 Apr 2017 09:36

The new index also includes age at death even pre-1866
Here's an example:

Name: Age at Death (in years):
GRO Reference: 1864 D Quarter in WIGAN Volume 08C Page 24

and the corresponding FreeBMD hits:

Births Jun 1862 (>99%)
BENSON William Thomas Wigan 8c 52

Deaths Dec 1864 (>99%)
Benson William Thomas Wigan 8c 24


However, there is a quirk with deaths of children under 2 years old.
In spite of the header "Age at Death (in years)", they seem to give Age at Death (in months) for children under 2. E.g.:

Name: Age at Death (in years):
GRO Reference: 1909 D Quarter in WIGAN Volume 08C Page 24

and the corresponding FreeBMD hits:

Births Sep 1909 (>99%)
Benson Arthur Wigan 8c 59

Deaths Dec 1909 (>99%)
BENSON Arthur 0 Wigan 8c 24

There are also burial records online for these twp kids:

Surname Forename Age Place of Death Date Year Notes Grave Cremation Religion
Benson William Thomas 2 ½ yrs 6 Shelmerdine St. 11-Nov 1864 H 450 C of E
Benson Arthur 2 mo 13 Gordon St 01-Nov 1909 I 524 * R C

NB My ma-i-l is buried at this cemetery, so I know the date given is date of burial, not date of death.


SylviaInCanada Report 14 Apr 2017 19:59

The new GRO Index also shows the baby's names in full, where Freebmd only shows an initial for second and subsequent forenames.


Kense Report 14 Apr 2017 11:01

Note that the GRO index search now includes mother's maiden name for pre 1912 births.


Joy Report 5 Sep 2012 16:55



Jonesey Report 30 Nov 2011 16:17

:-D :-D :-D


mgnv Report 10 Nov 2009 13:58

A typical FreeBMD hit is:

Surname First name(s) District Vol Page
Births Sep 1837 (>99%)
SMITH John Preston 21 420 [info] [spectacles]

Clicking on the Preston link, we learn that:
The district Preston is in the county of Lancashire; information about it can be found "here"
and clicking on the "here" link tells us the villages, etc in Preston Rego District, the sub-rego districts (which include Walton-le-Dale) and where the registers are now (Lancashire RO, which has its main office in Preston).
Clicking on the page # shows all the people pn that page of the GRO register (so if this were a marriage, then barring transcription problems, it would also show the spouse, but not identify precisely who that was),
Clicking on the info link allows you submit a correction, or else add a postem note to the entry e.g., if I'd bought this cert, I could post a transcription there to help others sort out their John Smiths.
Clicking on the spectacles lets me view an image of the GRO index page containing this entry - if you're going to order this b.cert, you should always confirm it yourself.
With the data from the index - name, year, quarter, district, vol#, page#, you can buy a cert from the GRO for 7 GBP - without this info it costs more.

The GRO is not the only place one can buy a BMD cert from. One can also buy it from the RO for the district where the event occurred - Preston here.
Some local ROs have their own indices online - check out:
Here we want

It's worth checking them out here too - the local indices often contain different details.

Lancashire Birth indexes for the years: 1837
Surname Forename(s) Sub-District Registers At Mother's Maiden Name Reference
SMITH John Walton-le-Dale Preston SLATER WLD/1/3

As we see here, Preston adds the mother's MS. We also learn the rego was in Walton-le-Dale sub-rego district.
At the local level, each sub-RD has it's own B/D registers, so the local index will say which one it's in, in some guise, maybe just the reference.
Sometimes, the site looks that up for you (although here one might have reasonably guessed WLD was Walton-le-Dale).
Incidentally, the 10 names on this GRO page all have a local ref of WLD/1/3 or WLD/1/4, I would presume 3-4 were the local pages, but often the local index gives entry numbers as part of the ref.
I think the usual practice was for local ROs to go thru their registers, one by one, listing out the stuff for that quarter, and then ship the list out to the GRO, who just bound the stuff from several ROs into giant volumes, and then the GRO compiled their index to these volumes..
The situation for marrs was similar, except the contributing registers would come from the churches, rather than the sub-RDs (augmented by the registrar's own register which contained register office marrs plus those RC and non-conformist marrs that the registrar attended.
Since an RD typically contains a lot more churches than sub-RDs, local ROs don't like searching for marrs without knowing the church.
Since the local RO's ref usually refers to an entry #, the local RO index will usually resolve the problem of who wed whom that the GRO index leaves open.

The GRO index added age at death in 1866q1, mother's MS for births in 1911q3, and spouses surname for marrs in 1912q1..
These were the only changes before 1969.

FreeBMD also has an essentially complete set of images of the GRO index thru 1983, so even if the quarter you're interested in is not (fully) transcribed, you can still check it out.
The usual search hit gives, e.g.,:
Births Sep 1837 (>99%)
Here >99% is the fraction transcribed - essentially all of this register.
One can access images via the "view images" link on FreeBMD's home page.


GlitterBaby Report 10 Nov 2009 08:44

Worth a nudge back up the board


brummiejan Report 6 Nov 2009 12:56



Chrissie2394 Report 24 Oct 2009 16:21

Hi Jonesey,

Thanks for the tip, I am desperate to find my gt grandfathers birth but as I've had help on here and it's not been found feel that it wasn't registered even though it was around 1884.

I'm now off to try again.



Jilliflower Report 24 Oct 2009 16:19

Thanks, and yes, Janet, it IS satisfying (a bit obsessive though, don't you think!!!!)
But I just do as I'm told...... and watch, listen and learn,
AND don't forget all the help and encouragement from the great and good just to make we lesser mortals think we are getting on alright!!!


brummiejan Report 24 Oct 2009 16:12

nudge - and to say well done Jillian! Much more satisfying to look for yourself don't you think?


Jilliflower Report 24 Oct 2009 12:03

Thanks a lot, Jonesey,
One giant leap for my kind!


Jonesey Report 24 Oct 2009 11:24

Hi Jillian,

Yes it looks as if you are indeed doing it correctly.

The volume and page numbers are indicators as to the location of the record in the GRO index. It is quite common to see the same reference numbers relating to up to as many as 8 individuals whose marriages were recorded on the same page. Normally the total records are an even number, 2,4,6, 8 but occasionally you will find an odd number of people listed. This is because the original may have been mistranscribed for an individual or perhaps the original had been illegible making it impossible to transcribe.


Jilliflower Report 24 Oct 2009 11:01

IT WORKS !!!!!!
Was a bit put off when TWO matching numbers came up for the marriiage I was looking for.

What's with the SAME number for two marriages?

Found Mary Sophia WALKER (b 1860) West Derby 8b 1002
and Charles BENNETT
Looked on 1901 census and found
Mary and Charles Bennett in Liverpool and her Durham birthplace gave her away (although it was Gateshead)

Thanks loads and loads for the guidance


brummiejan Report 24 Oct 2009 09:36

Jillian, that's good to know! have fun and good luck.


Jilliflower Report 24 Oct 2009 09:34

Thanks Jonesey and Janet.
I have certainly not been using freebmd to its full potential. I'm off to try it out!


brummiejan Report 24 Oct 2009 09:30

Jonesey, this is such a co-incidence! Just took it upon myself to start a thread re. using freebmd, popped back to board and saw this!
Not trying to steal your ideas I swear, didn't even know about this thread.


Alan Report 24 Oct 2009 09:26

I am currently transcribing Baptisms for Lan-OPC and to add to Jonesey's Thread , I have realised that the spelling of names is down to "The Scribe" who made the original Entry . The writing of such 'Scribes, Reverends & Curates, varied then as it does today so sometimes it is really difficult to read what is badly written


GlitterBaby Report 24 Oct 2009 08:44

Do not rule out a birth as you think it is in the wrong registration district as they have changed over the years.

Always worth checking out the registration districts


Jonesey Report 24 Oct 2009 08:30

Civil birth registration began in England and Wales in 1837. It was not until 1874 however that failure to register a birth became punishable by a fine. During the interim years it is known that many births went unrecorded. That can lead to a lot of frustration for family historians who are trying find a record of an ancestors birth.

More frustration can be caused by the fact that there is no such thing as standardized spelling of names so although the birth may have been registered initial efforts to find it fail because the spelling you are entering differs from the one recorded at the time.

Another possible reason why efforts might fail is that your ancestors birth may not have been registered in the surname that you thought. Illegitimate births were very common and the birth may well have been registered under the mothers surname.

Well those are the problems, so what is the solution?

The free site (Currently has births between 1837 and about 1955) has an excellent search engine which means that the registration index can be searched in many different ways:

You can search using forenames only. This may reveal registration under the mothers maiden name.

You can use wildcard options such as * which may reveal minor differences in the spelling of a name.

Something as simple as adding on or leaving off the letter “S” can make the difference of whether we can find our ancestors record or not. The most powerful search tool is ticking the “Phonetic search surnames” option which will reveal not only spelling variations but also all like sounding possibilities. E.G. Symonds, Simmons or Higg, Higgs ect. This option may also reveal a record which was mistranscribed.

Try all of the options and you may find that “Elusive” record is revealed.

Good luck.