Birth and death records
Birth and death certificates are original documents, and are therefore a valuable primary resource. They can provide useful, reliable information that will allow you to trace back your family history.
What do they tell us?
Birth and death certificates can provide information that will allow you to trace back your family tree, and also provide specific details about your ancestors.
A birth certificate shows:
- Forenames of the child
- Date of birth
- Place of birth
- Full name and maiden name of the mother
- Full name and occupation of the father (if married to the mother)
- Name, address and relationship to the child of the person who registered the birth
- Time of birth (Scotland only)
- Date and place of the parents marriage (Scotland only)
A death certificate shows:
- Full name of the deceased
- Cause of death
- Place of death
- Date of death
- Age at death
- Occupation of the deceased (if male)
- Name and occupation of the husband (if female)
- Name, address and relationship to the deceased of the person who reported the death
- Marital status (Scotland only)
- Name of spouse (Scotland only)
- Gender (Scotland only)
- Fathers name and occupation (Scotland only)
- Mothers name and maiden name (Scotland only)
How long have they been around?
The records of births and deaths began at different dates in different areas of the UK. The dates when birth and death certificates began is shown below:
- 1837 in England and Wales
- 1855 in Scotland
- 1864 in Ireland
If you need to find out birth and death events before this time, the best place to look would be religious records, kept by churches or chapels.
Where can I find them?
There are a number of ways of obtaining birth and death certificates depending on which area of the country the birth or death took place.
In England or Wales:
- The Family Record Centre holds indexes to certificate.
- Here, you can find the reference of the certificate in the index and apply for your certificate by filling out a form.
- Contact the Family Record Centre:
You can also download a form to order your certificate online from the General Register Office website.
For birth certificates, visit : www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/birthsbirths-deaths
For death certificates, visit : www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/deaths
- The General Register Office for Scotland holds birth and death certificates that are less than 100 years old.
- Find full details of how to order a certificate of birth or death , visit : www.gro-scotland.gov.uk/famrec/hlpsrch/leaflet2
- Contact the General Register Office for Scotland: