Recording Data from Civil Registration Sources


Civil Registration is undertaken by governments to keep track of births, deaths, marriages, civil partnerships and divorces.  The dates on which registration started, and the information collected during the registration process, vary from country to country but there are some general principles which can be applied when recording data from civil registration.

UK and Ireland Civil Registration Details

In England and Wales, BMD (Birth Marriage Death) Civil Registration started in mid-1837, and certificates can be obtained from the General Register Office for England and Wales. They can also be obtained from Local Register Offices, who can sometimes be very helpful when you don’t have all the details you need to be sure which certificate you need, so would like some cross-checking done. Guidance on the information held in the Registers can be found at Society of Genealogists: Birth, Marriage and Death Certificates, A Guide to Using the Records of Civil Registration 

For Scotland, Civil Registration started in 1855. Digital images can be ordered from Scotlands People and guidance on the information held in the registers can be found at National Records of Scotland.

For Ireland, registration started in 1864 (1845 for non-Catholic marriages) but many  Irish records were destroyed in 1922. Records from 1864 to 1922, for all Ireland, and from 1922 for the Republic are available through . Northern Irish records since 1922 are available via the General Register Office Northern Ireland (GRONI). 

On the Isle of Man Civil Registration of marriages started in 1849, of births and deaths in 1878. Copy certificates can be ordered from via the Isle of Man Government website.

The BMD records for the Channel Islands is different for each of the Islands, and are well explained at the FamilySearch wiki.

Recording BMD Information

The method for recording BMD information varies according to what source documentation you have.

Civil Registration Index Entry

Often, the first evidence you will find of a Civil Registration event in as a reference within the relevant Civil Registration Index, which holds summary information and reference data to enable you to order a copy certificate.  You may decide never to order the certificate (perhaps the individual concerned is peripheral to you main line of research) or you might want to record the details pending order and receipt of the certificate.

You will probably create a Source called e.g. GRO Indices (or possibly three Sources, one each for a Birth, Marriage and Death Index) and cite that Source against the relevant Fact, completing the Where within Source field with the reference information for the entry in question. For a GRO index for England and Wales, this could be something like e.g.

Birth, Individual Name Quarter name Year, Registration District Volume V Page P.

You should work out a format for these references that suits you and use it consistently. You will probably use this citation to support one or both of:

  • the event, with its place and date
  • an Individual’s name

Depending on the information the Index you are consulting provides, there may be additional facts.

Civil Registration Certificate

If you have a Certificate, such as a birth certificate, you will want to create a Source Record and then create multiple factsderived from that record (a birth, some parent details etc.). See Recording from A Birth Certificate  or Recording a Marriage/Civil Partnership for examples of how you would go about this.




Last update: 22 Feb 2024