Durham Civil Registration
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Civil registration, the government recording of births, marriages, and deaths, was instituted on 1 July 1837 in England. The act required for births to be reported within 42 days of the event and deaths within 5 days. Marriages had to be recorded in a civil register immediately after the ceremony. Copies of birth, marriage, and death registrations were sent by the district registrar to the Office for National Statistics each quarter. Because of this, civil registration is found by year, quarter, and registration district.
Although civil registration was required by law from its institution in 1837, compliance was far from universal during the first few years. Compliance became better by 1850, roughly 90% of the events were registered, and was basically universal beginning in 1874, when penalties for non-compliance were instituted. The registration of marriages and deaths were better reported than births until the 1850s.
When civil registration began, each county was divided into a number of registration districts, each containing several parishes. These districts were reorganized in 1935, meaning many of the historical districts created in 1837 no longer exist. Birth, marriage, and death certificates can be obtained from district registrars in the county or the General Register Office. Church marriage records after 1837 are identical to the civil marriage certificates. England Jurisdictions 1851 Map provides an interactive view of England’s civil registration districts and the parishes they cover.
Civil registration records are excellent sources for names, dates, relationships, and places of births, marriages, and deaths. See England Civil Registration for more information.
Civil Registration Districts
For a list of the historic and current registration districts in Durham, see UKBMD: Registration Districts in Durham.
Accessing the Records
Civil Registration Indexes
Indexes to civil registration are available on many websites. However, while these websites have the indexes, the original certificates cannot be ordered from here. The main websites are:
Other sites in which civil registration in Durham can be found:
These indexes only give a limited amount of information on birth, marriage, and death certificates. For births, the child’s name and the registration year, quarter, and district are listed. For marriages, the bride or groom’s name, the names of other people on the same page (does not specify the spouse), and the registration year, quarter, and district are listed. For deaths, the deceased’s name and the registration year, quarter, and district are listed. All three indexes also include the volume and page number the record can be found, which information can then be used to order a copy of the original certificate.
The General Register Office (GRO), where the original certificates are kept, also has indexes for births and deaths. These indexes provide more information than any other index; the information listed includes the mother’s maiden name on birth certificates and the age at death on death certificates. This information can be very valuable in identifying the correct certificate. The website requires a login, but it is free to register and search. Copies of the original certificates can also be ordered from this website for a fee.
Ordering Certificates Online
The General Register Office holds a central copy of all birth, marriage, and death registrations in England. These certificates can be ordered from their website (a login is required but it is free to register and search). To order, the person’s name and surname; the registration year, quarter, and district name; and the volume and page number must be known. To find these, use the civil registration indexes (discussed above). Because the district registrars sent copies of their certificates to the GRO, the certificate received in the mail or by pdf is a photocopy of the copy, not the original. Although accuracy is very high, there were occasional errors made while copying certificates.