Research your family using the General Register Office


Research your Family 

The General Register Office (GRO) can assist you in investigating your family history and family tree by providing birth, adoption, marriage, civil partnership, and death certificates.

From July 1837, the GRO contained all the records registered in England and Wales. To go back further, you’ll need to look at parish records.

It also has some documents from a later period, such as civil partnerships and adopted children. You can look up which records the GRO has. In Scotland and Northern Ireland, the process for obtaining certifications is different. 

What is the procedure for requesting a certificate for your family?

A birth, adoption, marriage, civil partnership, or death certificate can all be ordered through the GRO.

A GRO index reference number is assigned to every birth, adoption, marriage, civil partnership, and death in England and Wales.

Online, you can look for index reference numbers by:

1. Look up historic births and deaths in the GRO’s online index (1837–1916). (1837 to 1957)

2. On the FreeBMD website, you can look up index reference numbers for free.

Commercial companies also provide index reference numbers on their websites, but you’ll have to pay to search them, and costs vary. 

In-person, look for index reference numbers. 

You can also do a free search at:

These are the only entire sets of index reference numbers available. They’re only available on microfilm.

The General Register Office can find some index reference numbers at local libraries, archives, and other places. 

Recordings from other countries

Since the late 18th century, the GRO has kept track of births, marriages, and deaths of British residents who lived overseas.

Births, marriages, and deaths fall within this category:

  • Armed forces’ registration
  • consulates and high commissions in the United Kingdom
  • at sea, on British oil and gas rigs, or British aeroplanes

Dissolution of a civil partnership or divorce records

You can obtain copies of a decree absolute or final order dissolving a civil partnership by contacting one of the following:

  • the court issued the divorce or nullity of marriage.
  • the Family Division’s Principal Registry

Principal Registry of the Family Division

020 7421 8594

Learn about the costs of phone calls

Principal Registry of the Family Division

First Avenue House

42-49 High Holborn



Additional details

To assist with your family history research, you can explore local archives and the National Archives.

The GRO’s recommendations to investigate your family history contain information on what to look for on certificates and what to do if you can’t find one.