General Register Office

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General Register Office [England and Wales]
and some other sources of records from abroad.

Registration of births, marriage and deaths in England started in 1837, although it did not become compulsory until 1875. Copies of certificates can be obtained from the General Register Office (GRO). It was not compulsory to register a birth, marriage or death with the British authorities whilst you were abroad, but if the event was registered, then a certificate can be obtained from the GRO.

The General Register Office is a subsidiary of HM Passport Office, which in turn is an an agency of the Home Office.

Records originally held by the GRO may now be part of The National Archives. Those records classified as Non-Statutory were transmitted from the GRO to TNA in 1977,[1] where they have a National Archives catalogue reference, series RG. Some of the records in respect of military overseas births, marriages and deaths remain with the GRO. GRO documentation about the latter group of records is very brief. Some events are recorded in multiple places.

The GRO records are closed to the public.

The National Archives has produced a brief online research guide "Looking for records of a birth, marriage or death of a British national at sea or abroad", refer External links below.

Records at the General Register Office and The National Archives for Statutory Returns, including Consular Returns, and all the records covered by the GRO Indexes, may not include records of persons originating from Scotland and Ireland, and records must be looked for in Scotland and Ireland. For more details, see the FamilySearch Wiki article below. Online sources include ScotlandsPeople, see Scotland.

Overseas records series RG

These records are classified as Non Statutory Returns.

Series Title Contents details Browse subsections Notes
RG 32 General Register Office:
Miscellaneous Foreign Returns
Contents Browse
RG 33 General Register Office:
Foreign Registers and Returns
Contents Browse RG 33/90-113 contains some entries, mostly 20th century, from the Princely States Bikaner, Eastern Rajputana, Gwalior, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Madras States, Mysore, Punjab States and Trivandrum (index - RG 43/15).[2]
RG 34 General Register Office:
Miscellaneous Foreign Marriage Returns
Contents Browse
RG 35 General Register Office:
Miscellaneous Foreign Death Returns
Contents Browse Some 19th and early 20th century deaths in French territories in India are in RG 35/16 and RG 35/20-44.
RG 36 General Register Office:
Registers and Returns
of Births, Marriages and Deaths
in the Protectorates etc of Africa and Asia
Contents Browse Includes records for Sarawak, Malaya (inc Johore & Selangor) and British North Borneo, commencing at varying dates.
RG 43 General Register Office:
Indexes to Miscellaneous Foreign Returns
of Births, Marriages and Deaths
Contents Browse Indexes to the non-statutory registers and returns in RG 32 to RG 34, and to certain Army and Statutory registers retained by the Registrar-General. Also appears to contain indexes to RG 35

These non statutory return records are available on the pay site Ancestry in the dataset UK, Foreign and Overseas Registers of British Subjects, 1627-1965 RG 32-36. You can also access the RG 32-36 records on BMD Registers , (free search but pay to view) which is run by, a pay website, where the records are also available as a subset of “Births, Marriages and Deaths”

Findmypast (pay to search) has at least some RG 32-36 images and indexes, (it is unclear whether these are a selection, or a complete series) and also GRO indexes for Consular Returns which are Statutory Returns, together with Consular Returns records from the Foreign Office (FO), together with other indexes in respect of military overseas BMD. Note that particularly for Consular Returns, the same event may appear in different record series. The Findmypast datasets are now incorporated into datasets called British Armed Forces and Overseas Births and Baptisms, Marriages, Deaths (3 datasets).[3] (Previously there were two separate series titled British Nationals Born Overseas... (3 datasets), and British Nationals Armed Forces Births... (3 datasets), change introduced 2018/01). There is also a fourth dataset "British Armed Forces and Overseas Browse"[4] where some, but not all record sets may be browsed. There are a number of ways to browse, including by country.
Update "...thousands of new records from The National Archives and the General Register Office" were added to Findmypast 8 October 2021 in the categories British Armed Forces and Overseas Births and Deaths, "births at sea, fallen seamen and more" but specific details were not provided. has free Overseas Indexes, including indexes for Consular Returns, and in respect of military overseas BMD. These are viewable, not searchable images, refer Chaplains Returns for details.

If you find a reference in the indexes to a record in one of the above returns, the following options are available to obtain a copy of the record:

  • Request a copy online from the GRO (see below). It is unclear, but it is thought this will be a transcript, not an image of the original record.
  • View the returns on microfilm at the The National Archives, Kew, and arrange a print of the image if required.
  • View RG 32, RG 33, RG 34, RG 35 and RG 36 records online at Findmypast (noting the coverage may be incomplete), or Ancestry or BMD Registers which are all pay sites. (You may search for free for these records). The images may then be saved to your computer and/or printed.

If you find an GRO index reference for a Consular Return record, either on or Findmypast, to obtain a copy of the record, for Findmypast first check if there is an image available for an equivalent FO record (same database). If not, it it suggested, if you have convenient Ancestry access, you then check to see whether there is a record in the Ancestry database "UK, Registers of Births, Marriages and Deaths From British Consulates, 1810-1968, refer next section, as these appear to be equivalent records from the Foreign Office originating from the same source, and if not, you should request a copy online from the GRO (see below).

Other records at the National Archives

  • There are Foreign Office (FO) files at the National Archives such as Consular Returns containing copies of entries of birth or baptism, marriage and death or burial of British subjects. Copies of some of these Consular returns are also available at the London Metropolitan Archives, (previously the Guildhall Library), some of whose records have been microfilmed by FamilySearch.
Most of these records will also be found in the records available from the General Register Office, described above. There are, however, some registers at Kew from which the entries were not transmitted to the Registrar General.[1]
There are however, FO records such as cemetery files, which may not be available elsewhere.
Index records (with the possibility that some records may include an image) from some of the National Archives FO series are available in the Findmypast datasets described above, including some cemetery files.
Update: In April 2016, Ancestry introduced the database UK, Registers of Births, Marriages and Deaths From British Consulates, 1810-1968 consisting of various Foreign Office records. This database includes images and consists of a selection of specified Consular returns, not all Consular Returns. Full details of the records included may be accessed under "Browse this collection" on the Ancestry webpage.
FamilySearch has many digitised microfilms of Foreign Office Consulate records with most viewable at FamilySearch Centres, and some also additionally viewable at FamilySearch Affiliate Libraries, with however some not viewable at all. These are generally catalogued under individual countries, not as one collection. Catalogue entries using keywords Great Britain Consulate, and, with some overlap, catalogue entries using keywords Great Britain Foreign Office, the later including catalogue entry for "Marriages for British citizens abroad, 1814-1905". See FamilySearch Centres for access information.
There are some Foreign Office Records at the National Archives Kew, exact contents unknown but catalogued as FO 141/463/1 British marriages in Egypt. Part 1. 1915-1928 and FO 141/463/2 British marriages in Egypt. Part 2. 1928-1929. It is not clear whether these are considered to be Consular Returns, (and appear elsewhere in the Consular Return records) as for some of this period Egypt was under British control. There may be other relevant Foreign Office files.
  • There are some records in the military series WO 156 "War Office: UK and overseas garrisons: Registers of Baptisms, Confirmations, Deaths/Burials, and Marriage".
    • Some of the Registers of burials, described as "Selected pieces from the National Archives WO 156/103-122'" have been digitised and are available on the pay website "deceased online", refer below.
    • Index records (with the possibility that some records may include an image) from some of the National Archives series WO 156 are available in the Findmypast datasets described above. The overseas records appear to be WO 156/106 Cyprus burials; WO 107-110 Egypt burials; WO 156/111-117, 121-122 Malta burials; WO 156/119 Singapore burials; WO 156/594-595 Malta baptisms & marriages; WO 156/596-598 Malta baptisms.
  • At The National Archives, AIR 82 RAF Chaplaincy Board: Baptism, Marriage and Burial Registers contains at least some records relating to overseas including Egypt, such as AIR 82/3 Register of baptisms: RAF Abu Seuir, Egypt 1924 Jul 31 - 1955 Oct 2; AIR 82/559 Register of graves: 4 Flying Training School, Ismailia, and RAF Abu Sueir, Egypt 1922 Jun 17 - 1951 Nov 30; AIR 82/560 Register of marriages: Abu Sueir, Egypt, and Nicosia, Cyprus 1936 Dec 09 - 1973 Nov 24. There may be other relevant TNO files.
  • The National Archives record series Division within CO: Government gazettes from the colonies 1794-1990. Also includes mandated territories such as Iraq, CO 813 1921-1955, and Palestine, CO 742 1919-1948, although Egypt is not included. Gazettes generally provide information on a variety of subjects, including notices of appointments. There is also a series of publications known as Blue Books, to be found in Division within CO: Records of Local Bodies and Other Colonial Miscellanea which often contained occupational details, mainly in the form of a Civil List, although sometimes a Civil List was issued as a separate publication. For online editions of Blue Books, see Historical books online below.

Military Overseas records for BMD

Also see

Other sources

  • England and Wales census records. See Census and British Army Records
  • FamilySearch contains a database "World Miscellaneous", for details see IGI, in addition to records for individual countries, including many digitised microfilms only viewable as images. There is also a Find A Grave Index collection, and a BillionGraves Index collection on FamilySearch. You must be signed in to FamilySearch to view records.
  • See Society of Genealogists for overseas records from various sources. An archived webpage c March 2013 lists some of the Overseas records which were held at that time. Search the online catalogue for current holdings.
  • Ancestry (pay website) database "England, Andrews Newspaper Index Cards, 1790-1976",[5] part of Newspapers and Periodicals. Original data from the Andrews Collection. Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies, Canterbury, Kent, England. Includes overseas information including BMDs and filings under the Colonial Probates Act of 1892 (which recognized probates from courts in British possessions).
Ancestry Card Catalogue of all Record Databases (located as an option under the Search tab). Search by name of country.
  • Findmypast (pay website). Under the tab "Search records" is a category "A-Z of record sets" which is a listing of all the record databases.
  • Birth, marriage and death notices in Newspapers and Journals. See Newspapers and journals online and links included on that page. including Newspapers. An example is The London and China Telegraph, published in London, available online from 1860 to 1875, which included notices in respect of China, and the general area east of India, but a few deaths were noticed for India, and one noticed for Alexandria.
  • The Lambeth Palace Library, London, the principal repository of the documentary history of the Church of England, holds some limited overseas registers and transcripts including Mesopotamia (Iraq), Sudan, China as set out on pages 5-6 of "Lambeth Palace Library Research Guide Sources for Family History and Genealogy". Some/all? of the records for China are available on FamilySearch microfilm, catalogue entries A, B and C, however only the first is available as digitised microfilm (restricted to FamilySearch Centres and FS affiliate libraries) and the other two must be viewed as microfilm, either at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, and the second, the film in B, is also noted to be available at the Society of Genealogists in London, although this information is somewhat hidden in the FS catalogue (When commencing to Search, unclick Online, then select Family History Center, and from the drop down menu underneath select Society of Genealogists).
The records for Mesopotamia include
MS 2503-2507 Registers of St. Peter's church, Basra 1934-1968. MS 2669-2676 Registers for Mesopotamia (Iraq) 1883-1972, which in turn includes MS 2669 General register of baptisms in Mesopotamia, 1916-22, and in St. George's church, Baghdad, 1922-8. C.M.S. and civil chaplaincy baptisms are entered from 1921, and Royal Air Force baptisms from 1926; MS 2672 General register of marriages in Mesopotamia (including Baghdad), 1917-1928. Civil marriages are registered from 1922.
  • For some death records for Baghdad, Iraq/Mesopotamia 1921-1937, see External links below.
  • There are some overseas records at the London Metropolitan Archives.
  • See Cemeteries for websites including BACSA, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Find A Grave, BillionGraves.
  • Records at the General Register Office and The National Archives for Statutory Returns, including Consular Returns, and all the records covered by the GRO Indexes, may not include records of persons originating from Scotland and Ireland, and records must be looked for in Scotland and Ireland. For more details, see the FamilySearch Wiki article, and National Records of Scotland article below. Online sources include ScotlandsPeople, see Scotland, which provides record guides.[6]

External links


  • Order a certificate online from the GRO. This is the only GRO website. Once you are logged in, it is now (introduced November 2016) possible to search for GRO Historic Birth and Death Index References through the website. "... the new GRO indexes enable researchers to click through from their findings and make purchases on the same platform. Crucially, the birth index also provides mothers’ maiden names for the full range of entries. In other online indexes, it is only possible for researchers see these details for births registered from July 1911 onwards.[7]
Note: If you do not supply the GRO Index Reference, the certificate will cost more, and may take longer to be sent. The cheaper PDF format is not available for Forces or Overseas Records, or UK marriages.
Update Noted July 2023. A further cheaper option for births and deaths called "Online view digital images" is now available for some, but not all records. If available, this format is cheaper and faster that a PDF format record, but has the following disadvantages; firstly there are no headings; secondly some images are slanted, or misaligned enough to make some of the information on the entry unreadable or missing entirely, but in this case you may request a refund; thirdly marginal notes, if they are there, are not shown and they can sometimes be very important to see.[8] Mid November 2023. Years for digital image death records extended to 1957.
  • Contact details for the GRO on, including email address for queries about certificates and advice to include ‘GQ’ in the subject of your email.
Additional email address for "General Register Office Enquiry" current 2020/06


Listen to "Overseas births, marriages and deaths: records in The National Archives" 5 March 2012 Audio. The National Archives.
FamilySearch catalogue entry microfilm 1999050, items 8-9, Church of England Parish registers and notes, 1763-1959: Izmir, previously Smyrna, Turkey, from the London Metropolitan Archives (previously Guildhall Library).
  • Egypt had compulsory civil registration for births and deaths from 1912 for all, including foreigners. [10] Egypt Genealogy FamilySearch Wiki.
Also see a reference to Egyptian Garrisons, on the Fibiwiki page Chaplains Returns, in a description of records from Regimental Registers which have never been indexed.
A List of Australian Army nurses who married overseas during WW1 includes some who married in Egypt.[11]
Egyptian Government Website (English Language version)
  • Electronic Services/Subjects/ Personal document services. Note however the links within the latter are not "active", they do not lead anywhere (at 2020/08/22). Elsewhere it has been stated that the application for BMDs is in Arabic. Perhaps you could contact your Embassy for advice.
The British community (in Cairo) consisted of not only law-abiding upper middle class officials but of an assortment of businessmen, missionaries, and working- class maids and labourers.[12]
  • Baghdad, Iraq. Burials at Hinaidi RAF Cemetery, (now Ma'Asker Al Raschid RAF Cemetery): Searchable Database of 299 Graves from 1921-1937. Direct pdf, edition 8 July 2022 (archived). 196 of the 299 graves are for Royal Air Force casualties from eight RAF squadrons. There are also 71 graves for British Army personnel, 2 Royal Navy and 30 civilian. There are additional internal links about the cemetery. 6 Squadron, Books & Early Military Aviation website.
  • deceased online, a website which is free to search but pay to view, has some records for military burials in Malta, also Egypt and Cyprus. For more details, from the deceased online Home Page, select Coverage and scroll down to " “The National Archives - Military Burials” date added: 12 Dec 2013". Includes records from the National Archives series ADM 6, ADM 73, ADM 305 and WO 156. At least some of these records are also available on Findmypast, refer above.
  • Malta Family History, now an archived website. Includes data for births, marriages and burials. Also includes data about other areas such as the Ionian Islands, including Corfu and has a section called "Other Mediterranean Cemeteries" which includes Gibraltar and Smyrna, Turkey. The Smyrna database also includes baptisms and marriages (1795 – 1832). Although this site is now archived, most/all of the internal links appear to be available. Note there are two Index pages, the first Index page is linked from the Home Page, and the second Index page is linked from the first Index page.
  • Malta Public Registry The Public Registry was set up on the 3rd August 1889 although the records date back to 1863. Records kept at the Public Registry include births, marriages and deaths. Transcript copies are available for a fee, and can be ordered online. Government of Malta website.
  • Links to FamilySearch page Indexed Historical Records: Malta and catalogue entries for microfilms and digitised microfilms relating to Malta, some available on your home computer. Also additional microfilms for Gozo, not currently included in the Search result. You must be signed in to FamilySearch to view records.
  • Gibraltar
    • Gibraltar National Archives now has a Search facility for free transcriptions of Military Births, Deaths and Marriages in Gibraltar 1869-1914, based on records from the Gibraltar Civil Register office. Note a previous comment that a certificate obtained in Gibraltar, from the Registrar of Births and Deaths of Gibraltar, contained additional information to the certificate obtained from the GRO [13]. There is also a Search for Gibraltar Inhabitants 1309-1920, based on transcriptions of Census and other data.
    Findmypast, pay website, has some databases in respect of Gibraltar, whose source is not stated, but probably at least some are from the Gibraltar National Archives. Also see more comments further below about FMP.
    FamilySearch has some Civil registration digitised images, see below in the Family Search item.
    • Civil Status and Registration Office, Government of Gibraltar
    • British Overseas Territories/select Gibraltar from Ireland & United KingdomGenWeb, now an archived website. Select Articles/ ‘Cemetery Records' for burial records from King’s Chapel (Witham’s Cemetery). Where an occupation is shown, the burials appear to be of British Army soldiers, and seamen. Select Articles/‘Military Records’ for transcriptions by Donald Brett[14] of the Gibraltar Indexes for the Chaplains Returns for Deaths and Marriages (to 1880). The Gibraltar Chaplains Returns Indexes for Births have been transcribed separately by Donald Brett: download - depending on your browser, you may need to locate this in your downloads folder. (Full records, in respect of these Index records, are available at the GRO).
    • Indexed Historical Records: Gibraltar. FamilySearch. You must be signed in to FamilySearch to view records. In addition, or possibly included in the previous group of indexed records, FamilySearch has a catalogue entry Civil registration, 1848-1990 from the "Registry of Births, Marriages and Deaths in Gibraltar" , with most of the records viewable on your home computer. Includes Card Indexes. Also a catalogue entry Anglican Chaplaincy, Gibraltar, christenings, 1807- 1812 Microfilm 883701 and a similar entry for marriages. These records have been transcribed and may be browsed by using “Batch Number” C-89999-1 and M-89999-1 in the “Search Historical Records” on the FamilySearch website. In addition there are some Gibraltar Baptisms 1704- 1876 index records, at least some/(all?) of which are Roman Catholic records transcribed from microfilm 1729828. Also Gibraltar Marriages, 1879-1918 index records, at least some/(all?) of which are Roman Catholic records transcribed from microfilm 1738755. There are also microfilms for Roman Catholic records available for additional periods, and also for burials, catalogue entry.
    See the Fibiwiki page FamilySearch Centres for information about microfilms and digitised microfilms.
    • Findmypast includes a group of records from Gibraltar, including some baptisms, marriages and burials from St Andrew's Kirk, which appear to be related to the military, or seamen, and some marriage indexes supplied by FamilySearch. From the Search, select A-Z of record sets, then use Search term Gibraltar to locate the record databases.
  • Trace and tell your family’s Empire stories with links to pages "Government Records of Britons in … " including
    • Government Records of Britons in Cyprus, Cyprus was part of the Empire between 1878 and 1960. Includes reference to Cyprus Gazettes dating from 1878-1965 in the National Archives, Kew reference series CO 70.
      Editions of the Cyprus Gazette and the Cyprus Blue Book appear to be available online from Ministry of Education and Culture, although a sample download was so slow to load that the attempt was terminated.
      Editions of the Cyprus Blue Book are available online at, see Historical Books online below.
    • Government Records of Britons in Egypt. Great Britain declared Egypt a protectorate in 1914 but it remained under British control for only a short time, gaining independence in 1922, see the Wikipedia article History of Egypt under the British. 1882-1914 there was a de facto protectorate.
These pages c 2008 are from the archived website “Empire’s Children”, a website connected with the 2007 Channel 4 television series of the same name. Note, some of the information may now be outdated. Many of the internal links have not been archived.
There is a "Resources" chapter in the book Empire’s Children: Trace Your Family History Across the World by Anton Gill 2007, ( Books to Borrow), which consists mainly of a bibliography and does not include records. This book accompanied the television series Empire's Children.

Historical books online

For references to further similar articles regarding British deaths overseas, and details of how to possibly locate these online, see Society of Genealogists - Historical books online.
Includes Section 4.15 "Tables of overseas birth, marriage and death records in the PRO" [TNA] [by country] page 74. By looking at the constituent records for the Findmypast and Ancestry databases above, you can determine whether the records of interest to you are available online.
General Map of Cairo 1920 Library of Congress.
England in Egypt by Viscount Milner Thirteenth edition, 2nd impression 1926, first published 1892. It is stated the text has not been altered in any way. 1892 first edition
Modern Egypt by The Earl of Cromer Volume I, Volume II 1908
Great Britain In Egypt by Major E W Polson Newman 1928
Egyptian Service 1902-1946 by Sir Thomas Russell Pasha 1949 Thomas Wentworth Russell known as Russell Pasha. Wikipedia. His career was in the Egyptian police force, and as director of the Egyptian Central Narcotics Intelligence Bureau.


  1. 1.0 1.1 "British Births, Marriages and Deaths Overseas" FamilySearch Wiki, see External links above.
  2. "Fact Sheet: The British in India" from the now closed Family Records Centre, see External links above.
  3. British Armed Forces and Overseas Births and Baptisms; British Armed Forces and Overseas Banns and Marriages; British Armed Forces and Overseas Deaths and Burials Findmypast.
  4. British Armed Forces and Overseas Browse Findmypast.
  5. "England, Andrews Newspaper Index Cards, 1790-1976" Ancestry database.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Statutory register of births; Statutory register of marriages; Statutory register of deaths Includes BMD in foreign counties from 1860 and at sea from 1855.
  7. "GRO launches new digital services" by jonbauckham, 4 November 2016, now archived.
  8. AntonyM GRO (England & Wales) Digital Images Who When Where Genealogy Forum 6 July 2023. Accessed 15 July 2023.
  9. W., Hugh Genealoge September 06, 2008. Retrieved 8 January 2015
  10. "The Development of the Vital Statistics System in Egypt" by Gamal Askar January 1981.
  11. frev (Heather Ford) AANS NURSES WHO MARRIED OVERSEAS DURING WW1 Great War Forum blog 15 October 2023, retrieved 18 October 2023.
  12. The British Community in Occupied Cairo, 1882-1922 by Lanver Mak September 2001. PhD Thesis, The School of Oriental and African Studies University of London.
  13. aitch2o. "Info ommitted from GRO supplied birth cert" Who Do You Think You Are? Forum 21 November 2015, and later posts. Now no longer available
  14. Gibraltar WorldGenWeb Project, now an archived webpage