Birth, marriage and death records

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These ‘Vital Records’ include not only Births, Marriages and Deaths but more particularly in India, Baptisms/Christenings, Marriages and Burials. There was some registration of Births and Deaths in British India commencing in 1864 in Calcutta but generally it was voluntary.

There are a number of sources for locating birth, marriage or death information. This article provides an overview of these. See the links to the main article for each source for more in depth information.

Also consider the following:

  • a person may have been baptised with a certain Christian name, but been known by a completely different name, either for their whole life, or for various periods.
  • a second marriage may be bigamous
  • the birth mother may not be correctly stated in a baptismal record.
  • a person who had been widowed may be described as a Bachelor/Spinster on a 2nd marriage record

FIBIS resources

Births Marriages and deaths announced in Newspapers and periodicals are also included in above generalised database categories. For more details and direct links to individual periodicals covered see see Domestic Occurrences

Ecclesiastical records

Main article: Church records

(‘N’ Series in the India Office Records)

The East India Company established and paid for Anglican dioceses and parishes in all areas as they came under its control. Each chaplain/parish minister was required to establish registers in which to record BMDs. In addition, he had to send duplicates to the presidency ecclesiastical authorities, and for later periods to the relevant Registrar-General of Births, Death and Marriages.[1] The latter have been collated and sent to London and are now in the care of the India Office Records at the British Library in their Asian & African Studies Reading Room. Ministers, priests and missionaries who were not employed by the East India Company were not obliged to send these returns, however some did so on a voluntary basis but these records are available to a lesser extent.

Microfilmed copies of all the records are available for public inspection and indexes are available on the open shelves of the APAC, broken down by Presidency, alphabetically and by year.

The N series contains Anglican and some Catholic and Non-Conformist records.

The majority of these records have been digitised and are available online through the commercial site findmypast. If record is not found one should continue the search amongst the India Office records at the British Library. Also, be aware that the digital images are restricted for privacy purposes and a limited transcription only is available, currently (March 2021) as follows: There are no digital images for baptisms after 1921, nor for marriages after 1936.

Registrar Marriages

Main article: Registrar marriages

Marriages conducted by the Registrar, which commenced in 1852, are included in the India Office ‘N’ series (N/11). A complete transcription of the indexes to these records is included in the FIBIS Search section of this website.

The Registrar Marriages records are included in the digitised records available on the commercial site Findmypast.

Note FamilySearch has not filmed these records, so they are not included in the FamilySearch database of Indexed records, nor available as digitised microfilms.

Records on the LDS Family Search website

Main article: IGI

The LDS maintained International Genealogical Index is a huge database of genealogical information. The IGI contains several hundred thousand birth and marriage entries for the British India period, data input from the ecclesiastical record microfilms. Those from the ecclesiastical records provide reference numbers so that the microfilms may be viewed at LDS Family History Centres.

Details of other microfilms from the LDS Library Catalogue in respect of Church registers in India are also included.

‘Domestic Occurrences’ in registers, almanacs and newspapers

Main article: Domestic Occurrences

'Domestic Occurrences' was a section found in many periodical publications detailing birth, marriage and death announcements. It is easy to search these records in the digitised versions of newspapers, journals and directories that are available online. FIBIS has a wealth of transcribed resources.

The same publications may also contain notification of changes of name by deed poll but these will generally be in different section of the publication, not specifically under the heading 'Domestic Occurrences'.

Records at The National Archives

Main article: General Register Office

The National Archives hold some records that may be useful in tracing a BMD outside of the United Kingdom. For more help see TNA’s brief guide "Looking for records of a birth, marriage or deaths at sea or abroad" or the books Tracing Your Ancestors in The National Archives by Amanda Bevan (7th edn, National Archives Kew, 2006), including chapter 8, "Births, marriages and deaths of Britons overseas or in the armed services" and The British Overseas, A Guide to Records of Their Births, Baptisms, Marriages, Deaths and Burials Available in the United Kingdom by Geoffrey Yeo (London, 3rd edition 1995).

There is reference in the main article to some other sources of overseas records such as the London Metropolitan Archives.

BMDs at sea

Main article: Births, marriages and deaths at sea

British Army

British Army Ecclesiastical returns and Chaplains Returns detail sources other than the N series for India BMDs pertaining to British Army soldiers and their families.

Birth and death registration

Main article: Birth and death registration

Some birth and death registration did occur in British India. It commenced in the 1860s but was only compulsory in some areas, with other places adopting voluntary registration. The records are obtained from local Municipal Corporations, therefore researchers must know where a birth occurred. Some people born in India pre 1947 have copies of their birth registration. Recent copies are known to have been obtained from the Shimla Municipal Corporation following a visit there, but it is not known whether these documents are generally available, or how far back existing records go.

Change of name by deed poll

Notice of a change of name by deed poll may possibly appear in the various official Gazettes published in India, and in newspapers generally. As an example, a resident of Calicut and his wife changed their surname from Grosholz to Godfrey. Fort St. George Gazette 11 June 1918, page 948 (digital page 101)

For online Gazettes published in India, see Newspapers and journals online - Gazettes of India Collection on the Internet Archive ( Other online newspapers are linked from the same Fibiwiki page.
The London Gazette is another possible source, for online editions see British Army - Records and scroll to the entry "The [London] Gazette". (An example of a man with a connection to India.[2]).

See also

External links

  • findmypast
  • Tracing a Change of Name by Deed Poll in the UK . Some records are available at The National Archives. It is often the case that a proof of name change either never existed or no longer does.
  • Locate a local Archives England and Wales only. If a person has returned or immigrated to the UK, a local Archive may be a source of local newspapers for funeral or other information, local electoral registers etc. (Some electoral registers are available online on Ancestry, findmypast etc).
  • Marriage Licence Records (Allegations and Bonds) at Guildhall Library This is a brief introduction to searching for records relating to the issue of marriage licences, with particular reference to those concerning the City of London and former county of Middlesex. Licences were issued by the Archbishop of Canterbury and other Bishops, and the records are called Marriage Allegations or Bishops’ Marriage Allegations. These records have been transferred to the London Metropolitan Archives and are now available online on the pay website Ancestry.
Update July 2017. findmypast has added a database of transcribed indexes called "London Marriage Licences 1521-1869" which is taken from the book of the same name, published 1887 available on


  1. A 1929 Marriage Register return from the RC Chaplain in Quetta, Baluchistan was sent to the Registrar-General of Births, Death and Marriages in Baluchistan and was then forwarded to the Secretary of State for India. See marriage record for Arthur James Moore Must be signed in to Findmypast to view.
  2. Change of name from Heilgers to Hillyers. The London Gazette Publication date: 4 April 1919 Issue: 31271 Page: 4481. Pre-war, this man had been head of a well-known Calcutta merchant house.