England and Wales Birth Registration Index (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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FamilySearch Record Search This article describes a collection of historical records available at FamilySearch.org.
Access the records: England and Wales, Birth Index, 1837-1920 .

Record Description

The collection consists of an index to births in registered in England and Wales from 1837 to 1920.

Record Content

The birth index generally lists:

  • Child's full name.
  • Event type. Although the event type is listed as "birth," the event type is actually a birth registration, which can occur legally up to 42 days after the actual birth (known to cause the alteration of some registered birth dates to fit within this condition) and exceptionally at any time in an individual's life if the birth was not registered at the time of the birth. Note that before 1875 the responsibility for registration was with the Registrar - parents were only legally obliged to register the birth if demanded of them by the Registrar - and it is commonly estimated that up to 15% of births in this period (1837-1874) were not registered; from 1875 the legal responsibility for registration was with those present at the birth. See England Civil Registration.
  • Event year. This is the year the birth was registered, which may or may not be the same as the actual year of birth. Similarly, the registration quarter could be different from the actual birth quarter.
  • Event place. This is the Registration District where the birth was registered (based on the Poor Law Unions). Note that registration districts are used for administrative purposes. They are not related to counties and may in fact span several of them.
  • County. The county listed is only inferred from the registration district and may or may not be the actual county where the birth occurred.You should use other sources to confirm the actual birth location.
  • Page and volume of the indexed birth entry. There is currently a problem with some volume numbers in the FamilySearch collection which omit the alpha suffix (which was used after 1851): for example, a volume may show as 7 when it is actually 7b.The correct page and volume number can be obtained on the FreeBMD web site.
  • Registration quarter. As noted above, the registration quarter could be different from the actual birth quarter. The FamilySearch collection currently uses numbers for quarters instead of the standard quarter names assigned by the General Record Office (shown below in parentheses):
    • 1 (March Quarter, covering January - March)
    • 2 (June Quarter, covering April - June)
    • 3 (September Quarter, covering July - September)
    • 4 (December Quarter, covering October - December)
  • Mother's maiden name (starting July 1911).

How to Use the Record

To begin your search you will need to know

  • Your ancestor’s name
  • The approximate year of birth

Search the Collection

To search the collection fill in the requested information in the boxes on the initial search page. This search will return a list of possible matches. Compare the information about the individuals in the list to what you already know about your ancestors to determine if this is the correct family or person. You may need to look at the information on several individuals comparing the information about them to your ancestors to make this determination. Keep in mind:

  • There may be more than one person in the records with the same name.
  • You may not be sure of your own ancestor’s name.
  • Your ancestor may have used different names, or variations of their name, throughout their life.
  • If your ancestor used an alias or a nickname, be sure to check for those alternate names.
  • Even though these indexes are very accurate they may still contain inaccuracies, such as altered spellings, misinterpretations, and optical character recognition errors if the information was scanned.

For tips about searching on-line collections see the on-line video at FamilySearch Search Tips.

Using the Information

When you have located your ancestor’s record, carefully evaluate each piece of information given. Download a copy of the record, or extract the genealogical information needed. These pieces of information may give you new biographical details. Add this new information to your records of each family. The information may also lead you to other records about your ancestors. For example:

  • Use the information in the index to obtain a copy of the birth certificate from the appropriate registration district.
  • Use the parents' names and the birth place to locate the family in census and church records.

Tips to Keep in Mind

  • Knowing the district name and at least an approximate year in which the birth occurred will reduce your search time.
  • Events are filed by the date registered, not the date they occurred (for example, a birth on 20 March which was registered on 6 April will be in the April-May-June quarter).
  • Indexes were prepared by hand and may contain copying errors (for example, "T" for "F") or omissions.
  • Persons with common names may be difficult to identify in the index.
  • A child born before the parents’ marriage may be registered under the mother’s maiden name.
  • Some children were registered as "male" or "female" if a name had not been selected before registration.

Unable to Find Your Ancestor?

  • Look for variant spellings of the names. Surnames are often found under unexpected spellings.
  • You should also look for nicknames and abbreviated names.
  • A person may have been registered under a different name than he or she used later in life.

For additional information about the use of this index see the wiki article England Civil Registration.

Related Websites


Related Wiki Articles

England Civil Registration

Contributions to This Article

We welcome user additions to FamilySearch Historical Records wiki articles. We are looking for additional information that will help readers understand the topic and better use the available records. We also need translations for collection titles and images in articles about records written in languages other than English. For specific needs, please visit WikiProject FamilySearch Records.

Please follow these guidelines as you make changes. Thank you for any contributions you may provide.

Citing FamilySearch Historical Collections

Citations for individual image records are available for this collection. Browse through images in this collection and click on the “Show Citation” box:

When you copy information from a record, you should list where you found the information. This will help you or others to find the record again. It is also good to keep track of records where you did not find information, including the names of the people you looked for in the records.

A suggested format for keeping track of records that you have searched is found in the wiki article Help:How to Cite FamilySearch Collections.

Citation for This Collection

The following citation refers to the original source of the information published in FamilySearch.org Historical Record collections. Sources include the author, custodian, publisher, and archive for the original records.

“England & Wales Birth Index, 1800-1920.” Index. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : accessed 2013. Citing FindMyPast. Brightsolid Online Publishing Limited England.