Once a genealogist has narrowed the results of a BMD Index search, there are several methods to obtain the certificates.
Ordering Birth, Marriage or Death Certificates from the GRO
The General Register Office in London has all the records for England and Wales from 1837 to the present time. The volume and page number listed in the BMD Index is for use when ordering certificates through the GRO.
When the birth index only gives a few results, it’s easy to have confidence that one of the certificates will be the desired one. With marriages, search separately for each one until a match on volume and page is found.
If there is not enough information to identify which of several certificates to order, “reference checking” is available. One or more details may be added which must appear on the certificate for it to be considered a match and be sent. These details include:
- Date and/or Place of Birth
- Father’s Surname and/or Forenames (for birth)
- Mother’s Maiden Surname and/or Forenames (for birth)
- Date and/or Place of Marriage
- Surname and/or Forenames of Man’s Father (for marriage)
- Surname and/or Forenames of Woman’s Father (for marriage)
- Date and/or Place of Death
- Birthdate of Deceased
- Occupation of Deceased
- Marital Status of Deceased
Be careful: if a field is entered for reference checking, but no matching information on the official record is found, it is not considered a match. This means that if a researcher lists a bride’s father as Joseph Whitaker (his commonly used middle name), but the record shows Thomas Whitaker (his first given name), no record will be sent.
A portion of the fee will be refunded in this case, which does save money if there are several possibilities and no good way to narrow them down before ordering.
Order Certificates Locally
Local District Register Offices also have birth, marriage and death records, but only for that particular locality. Each office uses its own index, and the volume and page numbers listed in the BMD Index aren’t applicable.
More information may also be required at a local office, such as exact place of birth. Since each church is indexed separately, knowing the place of marriage can be crucial to order marriage certificates locally. Ordering procedures at different offices vary, so it’s best to contact the office ahead of time. A list of local offices can be found at Registration Districts in England and Wales.
Certificate Information Exchange
It is possible to find certificate information without ordering the actual certificate. Since it is common for genealogists to order a certificate that turns out not to be relevant, several websites offer the opportunity to list information for others to use.
Free BMD has a searchable “Postem” system in which researchers can add notes to individuals in the BMD Index. Researchers may check a search result entry for a symbol indicating that a Postem exists, or may search all Postems for a particular name or area. A sampling of Postems shows that some include:
- Transcribed data from a certificate, such as “George Bennison Fowler born 13 November 1857, son of George Fowler & Jane Elizabeth Sisson, Address: 7 Allington St. Westminster.”
- Corrections, with or without citations. These include page numbers, name spellings, etc.
- Additional genealogical information, such as parents’ names, census data, or whether baptized as an adult.
- E-mail addresses for further contacts and information sharing.
While Free BMD seems to be the largest exchange site for England and Wales, an internet search for “birth-marriage-death certificate exchange” will show many more, some also free of charge. These free sites work on a donation basis, with people e-mailing the information from their “extra” certificates. The sites usually show all the information that is on a certificate and include a way to contact the certificate owner. Two sites to look for are MyWardFamily and Certificate-Exchange