Wales Civil Registration

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How to Find the Records[edit | edit source]

Online Collections[edit | edit source]





Offices to Contact[edit | edit source]

Historical Background[edit | edit source]

The government began recording births, marriages, and deaths on 1 July 1837. These records are known as civil registration records with indexes and certificates. These indexes cover most of the population.

Coverage and Compliance[edit | edit source]

Information Recorded in the Records[edit | edit source]

Birth Records[edit | edit source]

  • Name of child
  • Sex
  • Birth date and place
  • Names of parents (including the mother’s maiden name)
  • Father’s occupation
  • Informant’s signature, residence, and "description" (often a relationship)
  • If the child was illegitimate, the father’s name is usually not given.

Marriage Records[edit | edit source]

  • Date
  • Place
  • Denomination (if a church marriage)
  • Names of the bride and groom
  • Whether single or widowed
  • Ages
  • Occupations
  • Residences
  • Names and occupations of their fathers (and often whether deceased)
  • Signatures of the bride, groom, and witnesses
  • If either of the parties was illegitimate, the name of the father may be suspect or missing altogether.

Divorces[edit | edit source]

Divorce required an act of Parliament until 1858 and was uncommon before the mid-nineteenth century. Private divorce acts are mainly found at the House of Lords Record Office:

House of Lords Library
London, SW1A 0PW

Civil divorce registration began in 1858. These divorce records are confidential for 75 years. Records more than 75 years old can be consulted at the National Archives, Kew, Surrey, England.   Divorce and other matrimonial law files are in J 77 and J 162, with indexes in J 78 at The National Archives, England

Death Records[edit | edit source]

  • Name of the deceased
  • Age
  • Accupation
  • Death date
  • Place
  • Cause of death
  • Informant's signature, relationship, and residence
  • A spouse’s name is sometimes given
  • If the deceased was a child, a parent’s name was often written in the space for "occupation."

Although the information on a death certificate may be sparse, the data is still valuable since a death certificate is usually the only civil registration record for persons born or married before July 1837.

General Historical Background[edit | edit source]

Before 1 July 1837, only churches recorded vital records in Wales (see Wales Church Records). Birth, marriage and death registration by a civil authority began on 1 July 1837.

Civil registration in Wales is administered locally by superintendent registrars and nationally by the Office of National Statistics which has on-line certificate ordering.

The registration district is the jurisdictional unit upon which civil registration is based. Each county is divided into districts, and each district has a superintendent registrar, who is responsible to register all vital events within the district, perform marriages, and send a copy of the certificates to the Office of National Statistics. The original registrations remain in the district offices. These registration districts crossed both county and national boundaries! For example the town of Llangollen, in the county of Denbighshire, was part of the Corwen registration district, even though Corwen was in the county of Merionethshire. Similarly, the town of Chirk, in Denbighshire, was in the Oswestry registration district, even though Oswestry was in the county of Shropshire in England.

Births and deaths are registered with the superintendent registrar by an individual who was present at the event. Marriages are registered by the minister or public official who performed the marriage. Quarterly, Church of England ministers send copies of their marriage records to the superintendent registrar. Quaker and Jewish marriages are registered by their own representatives directly with the Office of National Statistics. Until 1898 the superintendent registrars were accountable to see that marriages preformed by other nonconformist denominations were registered.

It has been estimated that 90 to 95 percent of births and nearly all deaths and marriages were recorded. There was no penalty imposed for failure to register until 1874. By 1875, 99 percent of all births, marriages, and deaths were recorded.

For more information on civil registration records, see:

  • Cox, Jane and Stella Colwell. Never Been Here Before?A Genealogist’s Guide to the Family Records Centre. Kew, England: PRO Publications, 1997. This guide about the Family Records Centre in London includes information about the birth, marriage, and death records of the Office for National Statistics. It also includes information about microfilms of census records, nonconformist chapel records, wills, and estate duty registers.
  • Wood, Tom. An Introduction to Civil Registration. Birmingham, England: Federation of Family History Societies (Publications) Ltd., 1994. (Family History Library book 942 V27w;).
  • McLaughlin, Eve. St. Catherine’s House. 8th ed. Solihull, England: Federation of Family History Societies (Publications) Ltd., 1991. (Family History Library book 942 V27m 1991). The records from this office were transferred to the Family Records Centre in 1998.

Research Tutorials at FamilySearch[edit | edit source]

Locating Civil Registration Records[edit | edit source]

Civil registration records are kept at the superintendent registrar’s district office. North Wales is incomplete but very useful For a complete listing of local registrars

Duplicates are kept at the Office for National Statistics (formerly the Registrar General). The Family History Library has microfilm copies of the indexes from 1837 through 1980 and microfiche copies of the indexes from 1837 to 1983.

You can order copies by mail from:

  • Government Records Office
    Office for National Statistics

    Smedley Hydro
    Trafalgar Road
    Southport,  PR8 2HH

Civil registration certificates are not open to public inspection, but you can request individual certificates. Indexes are available (see "Indexes to Civil Registration Records" at the end of this section). To see more information than is given in the index, you must obtain a copy of the actual certificate. Certificates will be less expensive if you supply the index reference numbers.

When requesting a certificate by mail, bear in mind that it takes several weeks to obtain a reply. When you write, send:

A check or money order in British pounds for the search fee (the amount varies).

The information from the index, if you searched one, including the name of the individual, the year and quarter where you found him or her, the district name, and the volume and page number from the index.

If you did not search an index, send the following information along with the check or money order:

  • The full name and sex of the person sought
  • The names of the parents or spouse, if known
  • The approximate date and place of the event

If you know the registration district, you may wish to order a certificate from the superintendent registrar since search policies are often more liberal and mail order requests less expensive than if you ordered one through the Office for National Statistics.

Registrars usually will not search marriage records because of the complex marriage registration procedures.

The superintendent registrars’ addresses are found in:

  • The Official List of Registration Offices. London, England: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1993. (Family History Library book 942 X4g 1993;).
  • District Register Offices in England and Wales. 6th ed. Yorkshire, England: East Yorkshire Family History Society, 1989. (Family History Library book 942 E4ew 1989;).

Addresses for the superintendent registrars for England and Wales can be found through the GENUKI Web site at:

Keep in mind that over time district boundaries have changed and some districts have been abolished

The Office for National Statistics has records for British subjects outside England including registrations of events at sea at consulates and embassies and for military personnel. For further information see

  • Yeo, Geoffrey. The British Overseas.3rd ed. London, England: Guildhall Library, 1995. (Family History Library book 942 V24y 1995;).

Indexes to Civil Registration Records[edit | edit source]

An index can help you find an entry for your ancestor. The Registrar General compiles nationwide indexes after receiving the quarterly returns from the local superintendent registrars. These indexes are arranged by calendar quarter. A surname and given name, registration district, volume, and page number are shown in each entry. Later indexes also include:

  • Age at death (post-1865 death indexes).
  • Mother’s maiden name (post-June 1911 birth indexes).
  • Spouse’s surname (post-1911 marriage indexes).
  • Searching Civil Registration Records and Indexes

With the index reference, you can send for the certificate (see "Locating Civil Registration Records" in this section for the address). If you cannot find an index entry, remember:

Surnames are listed in strict alphabetical order and are often found under unexpected spellings.

Events are filed by the date registered, not the date occurred (for example, a birth on 20 March registered on 6 April will be in the April-June quarter, not the January-March quarter).

Indexes were hand-prepared and may contain copying errors and omissions.

A person may have been registered under a different name than was used later in life.

Persons with common names may be difficult to identify in the index.

Information (particularly age at death) is sometimes misleading.

Some deaths were registered without a name (unknown).

The surname for a woman in the marriage index may be her surname by a previous marriage, not her maiden name.

Marriages may be recorded under a patronymic name.

An illegitimate child may be registered under the mother’s maiden name.

When a given name had not been selected before registration, a child was listed in the index as "male" or "female" under the surname.

The names of the places shown in the index are the names of registration districts, which are not usually the names of the places where the events happened. A district is a civil jurisdiction, and in rural areas, many villages and parishes belong to one district. Large cities may encompass several districts.

If you know the town or parish where your ancestor lived the following source will help identify the district for that location:

John M. Wilson The Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales. 6 vols. Edinburgh, Scotland: A. Fullerton, [1870]. (Family History Library book 942 E5i; films 897325–7; fiche 6020308–36;). This is one of the few gazetteers which lists the district name. If you can’t find the place here, it may be too small to be mentioned. Look up the name of the place in another gazetteer to find its parish name or a nearby larger town; then return to this gazetteer to discover the district name.

Population tables, available each census year, are another source that can help you identify a district for a location. They are arranged by county, district, and parish. Population totals for the various census years are also shown. The indexes to these tables are very helpful because they are arranged in alphabetical order by parish or town name, showing the name of the district for each place. Refer to these indexes to determine changes in district boundaries. The Family History Library call numbers for the indexes follow:

The following sources contain alphabetical lists of districts in each county. The first source also has a series of maps. Sometimes it is helpful to use these maps when you want to know the names of the adjacent districts or to see where a district is in relation to others. A map based on districts in 1851 is available on the Genuki website.

A Guide to the Arrangement of the Registration Districts Listed in the Indexes to the Civil Registration of England and Wales, 2nd ed. Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1977. (Family History Library book 942 V2icr 1977; film 990269 item 4; fiche 6020287.) This guide contains nineteenth-century maps and lists of districts.

Newport, J. A. An Index to the Civil Registration Districts, 1837 to Date. Selsey, West Sussex, England: P. Pledger, 1989. (Family History Library book 942 V22nj.)

Records at the Family History Library[edit | edit source]

The Family History Library has microfilm and microfiche copies of the civil registration indexes for births, marriages, and deaths from July 1837 through 1983. The library does not have any copies of the certificates. Microfilm or microfiche numbers for the indexes are listed in separate catalog entries in the Place Search of the FamilySearch Catalog under:


Miscellaneous Indexes[edit | edit source]

Several surname indexes have been compiled for other records, such as military records and colonial office records. The original indexes are housed at the Family Records Centre in London. Copies are now on microfiche in the Family History Library.[1]They are found in the FamilySearch Catalog under:


Obtaining Certificate Copies[edit | edit source]

Efforts to make certificates openly available have been unsuccessful. Copies of certificates may be obtained in one of three ways:

  1. Order online from the General Register Office
  2. Request a copy from the appropriate local registrar (a little more difficult unless you live close but a great approach when searching for common names like Jones)
  3. Marriages were often recorded in the parish church on a form identical to those held by the government. If you have an idea which parish a couple might have married in it is possible to obtain a copy of the certificate from the post 1837 parish registers.

Overseas and Military Civil Registration[edit | edit source]

For guidance in searching for Welsh ancestors who were born, married, or died overseas, please see the "Overseas and Military Civil Registration" section under England Civil Registration.

See also[edit | edit source]

External Links[edit | edit source]

Sources[edit | edit source]

  1. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Research Outline: Wales (Salt Lake City: Corporation of the President, 2000), 25-28. NOTE: All information in the original research outline has been added to the FamilySearch Wiki, where it is both enhanced and updated by the genealogical community.