The General Register Office (GRO) indexes are indexes to births, marriages and deaths in England and Wales. Our records date back to July 1837 almost to the present day. Microfiche copies held at Sheffield Archives go up to December 2003 and copies from 1837 to date are available on the internet.
Access to the indexes
Access the indexes using Findmypast's collections.
Microfiche copies: 1837-2003 are available at Sheffield Archives and other large libraries.
Order a certificate
Quote the year, quarter, district, volume and page (the full GRO reference) when ordering certificates.
You can order online from the General Register Office.
For family history purposes, you need a full certificate, not a short certificate.
Information on births, marriages and deaths held by local registrars and the GRO is only available in the form of a certificate, issued on payment of a fee. Details of these charges are available from Sheffield Register Office and the General Register Office.
Local register offices have always used their own indexing system. The GRO reference is of no use to them. Some register offices may be unable to locate an event, and refer you to the GRO indexes.
About the indexes
From 1837 to 1983, and then on
There is a separate index for each quarter of each year - all births registered in January, February and March of a particular year are referred to as the March quarter, and so on. Likewise for all the marriages and deaths.
From 1984 the indexes cover a whole year.
Before 1837, precise dates of birth and death were not officially recorded. For research purposes before 1837, see Parish Registers and Nonconformist Registers.
When to use the local Register Office
If you already know exactly when and where a birth, marriage or death took place, you don’t need the GRO indexes.
You should be able to get a certificate from the local register office concerned (see How Do I Get A Certificate below).
But if you can only guess at the date of a person’s birth, marriage or death, you search the indexes quarter by quarter until the right name is found.
Within each quarter of each year, you will find: Name in strict alphabetical order: surname, first name and initial(s) of middle name(s) Registration district GRO volume and page.
Volume codes (7a and 9d) relate to English county areas – we have reference maps to show them.
Mother's maiden names
From September 1911 in the births, the mother’s maiden name is given. From 1912 in the marriages, the spouse’s surname is given.
Age of the deceased
From 1866 to 1969 in the deaths, the age of the deceased is given, and from 1969 his/her date of birth instead.
There are separate indexes to overseas registrations, including war deaths (Boer War and World Wars I and II).
Tips to help you find a birth
If the child was born near the end of a quarter, they may appear in the next one: you have 6 weeks to register a birth.
The name may have a variant spelling, for instance: Annie Gelsthorpe was registered as Annie Gilthorpe – her mother, who registered the birth, could not read or write, so would have been unaware of the error.
Until fines for not registering births were introduced in 1874, it is known some births were not recorded.
Often family history knowledge is wrong: wrong ages may have been given later, so you’ve looked in the wrong years or children have been born illegitimate and brought up with another surname.
You may have disregarded a birth in the right name but in an unexpected part of the country – can you be sure where they were born?
There may be a clerical error – one Tucker birth was misread and indexed as Tinker.
Low cost ways to research
For birth and death, having narrowed it down to a quarter, you can try searching church registers of baptism and burial, and cemetery records, at your local archives.
But in each registration district there may be dozens of churches, chapels and burial grounds. You need to have a good idea of the likely place – easier in a rural setting than in a big city like Sheffield.
For Anglican marriages, but church records will not show a register office marriage, or 19th century marriages taking place in Catholic churches and nonconformist chapels.
People with the same name
You can only send off to GRO for one of them, stating the certificate is only wanted if parents‘ names are X and Y, and GRO will apparently refund part of the fee if the names do not match.
Certificates from Sheffield Archives
We can only provide certificates for certain marriages, in churches within the Archdeaconry of Sheffield for which we hold the registers (details on request).
For these, we can write out a certificate for you, see our fees and charges.
Only registrars, or the GRO itself, can issue birth and death certificates. We can only offer you access to the GRO indexes.
- All libraries: website images
- Sheffield Archives: Microfiche
Please contact us to book a computer or fiche reader before your visit.