Frequently Asked Questions





1. About us

The General Register Office (GRO) is based in Southport, Merseyside and holds records for all births, deaths, marriages and civil partnerships that have been registered in England and Wales from 1837.


2. Records available


Ordering via our online service

The following can be ordered through our GRO online ordering service -

  • Certificates for birth, death, marriage, civil partnership and adoption events registered in England and Wales and for certain British Nationals, who were born, married, formed a civil partnership or died overseas.
  • Commemorative marriage certificates for silver, ruby, golden and diamond wedding anniversaries.
  • PDFs for historical digitised civil registration records held by GRO (birth entries from 1837 to 1921 and death entries from 1837 to 1957).

To order a PDF, you will need to provide a GRO index reference number. At the point of ordering you will be taken to the GRO online indexes so that you can search for the reference number for the image that you are interested in. For a PDF, you are also able to provide the GRO Index reference if you already have it. If you are unable to trace the record you can still apply for a certificate but there will be an additional administration charge if a GRO index reference is not provided.

The GRO online indexes should be used to try and identify the index reference for: birth records from 1837 up to 100 years ago, and 1984 up to the current year; and death records from 1837 to 1957, and 1984 up to the current year in England and Wales. Alternative index sources include https://www.freebmd.org.uk/ and the host sites (please refer to section 7 for more information).

You will be prompted to supply further details for more recent births and deaths (within the last 50 years) and marriages and civil partnerships (within the last 35 years) when you complete the online application form.

If you are unable to complete the mandatory fields, then you will not be able to apply online and you will need to follow our telephone ordering process. Please contact us on +44(0) 300 123 1837 for further information.

Ordering offline (by telephone or post) only

The following certificates are not available to order online and are not subject to the telephone or postal certificate application fee.

  • Short or abridged versions of certificates (apart from short adoption certificates, which can be ordered online)
  • A certificate from the Register of Presumed Deaths
  • A certificate from the Abandoned Children's Register
  • A certificate from the Parental Order Register and
  • A certificate from the Gender Recognition Marriage or Civil Partnership Registers

If you require a copy of a short birth certificate, or if you require a certificate from the Abandoned Children's Register or the Parental Order Register please contact us on +44(0) 300 123 1837 for further information. For certificates from the Gender Recognition Register, once the registration has been made, you will have been given a direct line to telephone the team or you can use the above number and be redirected.

Records we are not able to provide

GRO is not able to issue certificates for events that have taken place within the last six months (for marriages this period is extended to eighteen months) and you may wish to obtain a certificate from the register office or church where the event was registered. This information excludes adoption certificates, as the local register office does not hold a copy of the Adopted Children Register. If you require further information, please contact us on +44(0) 300 123 1837 and talk to our Customer Service Team.


3. Price list for our services

Priority Service

Your certificate(s) will be despatched on the next working day from receipt of your application, if we receive it before 4pm. We will send your certificate(s) to you using 1st class postage. You also have the option to select Royal Mail Next Day Delivery, Royal Mail Saturday 9am or DHL Overseas Delivery.

 OnlinePhone or Post
Full certificate with a GRO index reference supplied*£35.00£39.00
Full certificate without a GRO index reference supplied
(if customer requires the GRO to index on their behalf a fee of £3.00 is charged)
£38.00£42.00
Additional copy of the same certificate at the same time£35.00£35.00

Standard Service

Your certificate(s) will be despatched on the fourth working day from receipt of your application (if a GRO index reference has been supplied), or the fifteenth working day (if a GRO index reference has not been supplied). We will send your certificate(s) to you using 2nd class postage.

PDF(s) will be available to view in your online account within four working days from the date of the order if we receive it before 4pm. You will be notified by email when the PDF is available.

 OnlinePhone or Post
Full certificate with a GRO index reference supplied£11.00£15.00
Full certificate without a GRO index reference supplied
(if customer requires the GRO to index on their behalf a fee of £3.00 is charged)
£14.00£18.00
Additional copy of the same certificate at the same time£11.00£11.00
PDF£7.00n/a
Commemorative Certificate with a GRO index reference supplied£35.00£39.00
Commemorative Certificate without a GRO index reference supplied£38.00£42.00


4. Our refund policy for certificates only

Please note that we will retain a fee of £3.50, to cover administration costs incurred, if we are unable to find a record of the event you have requested. Any additional administration fees which you may have paid (if not applying using our online service or including a GRO index reference) are also non-refundable.


5. What to do if you have not received your certificate

Please allow at least 5 working days (working days exclude Saturday/Sunday/Bank Holidays) from the estimated date of despatch for delivery before you contact us or a minimum of 15 working days if you live overseas. We will not be able to take action if you contact us before these timescales. If you still haven't received your certificate after this time, please use our online form to send us a message. When you submit this form it will generate an email to us with the details you have supplied. We will respond to your email within 5 working days.

Please note that you should report the non-receipt of a certificate within three months.


6. What to do if you have not received your PDF?

Please allow 5 working days from the estimated date of order before you contact us. We will not be able to take action if you contact us before these timescales. If you still haven't received your PDF after this time, please use our online form to send us a message. When you submit this form, it will generate an email to us with the details you have supplied. We will respond to your email within 5 working days.


8. Using our online service

The quickest, easiest and cheapest way to order a certificate is to go online using the GRO's secure online ordering service. The following document provides information on how to set up an account so that you will be able to start ordering from us online.

Setting up an online account   PDF Icon   Setting up an online account
PDF, 136KB, 1 page

The following document covers troubleshooting topics when making online applications.

Please refer to this guide before contacting the office should you experience an issue when setting up an account or making an order online.

Online ordering Troubleshooting   PDF Icon   Online ordering Troubleshooting
PDF, 175KB, 2 pages


9. Understanding the GRO index reference number

The following document provides information on the GRO index reference number and where you can find it. This will help you when making an application and if you wish to carry out your family history research.

The GRO Index Reference Number   PDF Icon   The GRO Index Reference Number
PDF, 197KB, 3 pages


10. The GRO online indexes

A number of GRO birth and death indexes are freely available to search online. These cover birth records from 1837 up to one hundred years ago, and 1984 up to the current year; and death records from 1837 to 1957, and 1984 up to the current year. The following documents provide an overview and guide to using these indexes.

GRO is currently working on a rolling programme to put all of its indexes online. We will notify you via our website when new indexes are added.

PDF Icon   PDF Icon   GRO online historical birth and death indexes overview
PDF, 55KB, 4 pages


11. Certificate types

The following documents provide guidance on what you will see on a certificate, what records are available and how to order them

Birth, Marriage, Civil Partnership and Death Certificates   PDF Icon   Birth, Marriage, Civil Partnership and Death Certificates
PDF, 113KB, 1 page
[What you will see on the certificate]

Overseas Records   PDF Icon   Overseas Records
PDF, 167KB, 3 pages
[Records available and how to apply for them]

Adoption Certificates   PDF Icon   Adoption Certificates
PDF, 175KB, 2 pages
[Records available and how to apply for them]


12. Other services we provide

PDF

Portable Document Format (PDF) is a file format used to present and exchange documents reliably and in a manner that is independent of user's software, hardware, or operating system. PDF's are available for historical digitised civil registration records held by GRO (birth entries from 1837 to 1921 and death entries from 1837 to 1957). Orders for a PDF copy of a registration record must be made via our online ordering site; this service is not available via telephone or postal applications. The following document provides information on how to order a PDF, what information you will require and what a PDF copy of a registration record will look like.

PDF   PDF Icon   PDF Service
PDF, 289KB, 4 pages

Commemorative Marriage Certificate

Commemorative marriage certificates feature the original marriage details and are mounted within a presentation box. You can order special commemorative certificates for Silver (25th), Ruby (40th), Golden (50th) and Diamond (60th) wedding anniversaries as gifts or keepsakes.

Commemorative Marriage Certificate   PDF Icon   Commemorative Marriage Certificate
PDF, 97KB, 1 page


13. What to do if you are not happy with the PDF/certificate you have received or the service we have provided

Use our online form to send us a message. When you submit this form it will generate an email to us with the details you have supplied. We will respond to your email within 5 working days.
Please note that any problems with your order must be reported to GRO within three months.

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