GRO - A Family History Resource

We recently came across the GRO (General Registrars Office) website which we previously used to order certificates. Having had to to re-register, we found that it now allowed online access to GRO Births (1837-1916) and Deaths (1837-1957). Most of you probably use FreeBMD to find births and deaths (1837-1915) but the GRO offers two extremely useful features:

  1. For births, you can find the Maiden Name of the mother from 1837 onwards. FreeBMD only provided this information from 1912 onwards. For base born children, the Maiden Name is shown as '-'.

  2. For deaths, the Age at Death is provided from 1837 onwards. FeeBMD only provides this from 1866 onwards

However, GRO does have some limitations:

  1. The surname field will not accept 'wild card' searches although it does allow phonetically similiar or similar sounding variations

  2. You can only search across ALL records or limit the search to a specific Registration District e.g. you cannot search one or more counties as you can with FreeBMD

  3. You can only scan across a 5 year time frame

  4. You have to specify whether you are looking for male or female

Even so, this is a a very useful resource.

Note: It will also allow you to search on the Maiden Name field for births. Thus you can find all the children for a specific marriage by using surname and maiden name albeit you can only do it in 5 year periods and you have to search separately for males and females.

So the 'dream team' is FreeBMD to locate the person of interest and GRO to find the additional detail.

You can register/login at

Leave a comment below if you find this useful or can suggest any other novel ways to use this data.

Pat & Barry Woods

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