Research your family history using the General Register Office

You can order birth, adoption, marriage, civil partnership and death certificates from the General Register Office (GRO) to help you research your family history and family tree.

GRO has all the records registered in England and Wales from July 1837. You’ll need to look at parish records to trace back further.

It also has some other records, starting at a later date, for example for civil partnerships and adopted children. You can check which records are held by the GRO.

There’s a different process for getting certificates in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

How to order a certificate

You can order a copy of a birth, adoption, marriage, civil partnership and death certificate from GRO.

All births, adoptions, marriages, civil partnerships and deaths registered in England or Wales have a GRO index reference number.

Find index reference numbers online

You can:

Commercial companies also have the index reference numbers online, but you’ll have to pay to search them and prices will vary.

Find index reference numbers in person

You can also search for free at:

These are the only complete copies of the full sets of index reference numbers. They’re on microfiche.

Some of the index reference numbers are available at local libraries, archives and other locations.

Overseas records

GRO has records of births, marriages and deaths of some British citizens that have taken place abroad since the late 18th century.

These include births, marriages or deaths:

  • registered by the armed forces
  • recorded by British consulates or high commissions
  • at sea, or on British oil or gas rigs or aircraft

Divorce or civil partnership dissolution records

For copies of a decree absolute or final order of the dissolution of a civil partnership, you’ll need to contact either:

  • the court where the divorce or dissolution was granted
  • the Principal Registry of the Family Division

Principal Registry of the Family Division
020 7421 8594
Find out about call charges

Principal Registry of the Family Division
First Avenue House
42-49 High Holborn

Further information

You can also search local archives and the National Archives to help research your family history.

The GRO’s guides to researching your family tree include details of the information you’ll find on certificates, and what to do if you cannot find a certificate.