General Register Office
and some other sources of records from abroad.
Registration of births, marriage and deaths in England started in 1837. 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, 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.
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 1831-1969||Contents||Browse|
|RG 33||General Register Office: Foreign Registers and Returns 1627-1960||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).|
|RG 34||General Register Office: Miscellaneous Foreign Marriage Returns 1826-1921||Contents||Browse|
|RG 35||General Register Office: Miscellaneous Foreign Death Returns 1830-1921||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 1895-1965||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 1627-1960||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 TheGenealogist.co.uk, a pay website, where the records are also available as a subset of “Births, Marriages and Deaths”
Findmypast (pay to search) has what appear to be the indexes from RG 43, including indexes for Consular Returns which are Statutory Returns, together with other indexes in respect of military overseas BMD. The findmypast datasets are now incorporated into datasets called British Armed Forces and Overseas Births and Baptisms, Marriages, Deaths (3 datasets). (Previously there were two separate series titled British Nationals Born Overseas, Married Overseas, Died Overseas), (3 datasets), and British Nationals Armed Forces Births, Marriages, Deaths, (3 datasets), change introduced 2018/01).
FamilyRelatives.com 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 non statutory 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 whether this record will be an image of the original record, or a transcript.
- 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 Ancestry or BMD Registers which are both 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 index reference for a Consular Return record, either on findmypast, or FamilyRelatives.com, to obtain a copy of the record, it it suggested, if you have convenient Ancestry access, you first check to see whether there is a record in the Ancestry database "UK, Registers of Births, Marriages and Deaths From British Consulates, 1810-1968, as these appear to be records from the same source, refer next section, 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.
- Index records from some of the National Archives FO series are available in the findmypast datasets described above.
- 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 consists of a selection of specified Consular returns, not all Consular Returns.
- There are some records in the 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.
Military Overseas records for BMD
- See Chaplains Returns.
- England and Wales census records. See Census and British Army Records
- FamilySearch contains a database "World Miscellaneous", see IGI. You must be signed in to FamilySearch to view records.
- Society of Genealogists. An archived webpage c March 2013 lists some of the Overseas records which are held.
- Ancestry database "England, Andrews Newspaper Index Cards, 1790-1976", 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Contact details for the GRO on Gov.uk, including email address for queries about certificates and advice to include ‘GQ’ in the subject of your email.
- Searching for overseas records Archived website GRO.gov.uk January 2006
- Research your family history using the General Register Office from Gov.uk
- findmypast. Refer Overseas records series RG, above. Previously there was a dataset called "British Overseas Marriages" 1818-2005, which were transcriptions only, elsewhere  stated to be from records at the Society of Genealogists. Noted were records from the Cape of Good Hope, Malta, Turkey etc., in addition to records from St John's Church, Calcutta. These records appeared to be very limited in detail, those looked at only stated the year of marriage, and did not state the spouse name. However, this dataset no longer appears in the list of datasets under this name, and may have been incorporated into the larger database.
- GRO Wikipedia
- British Births, Marriages and Deaths Overseas FamilySearch Wiki
- Fact Sheet: The British in India from the now closed Family Records Centre which was run jointly by the GRO and the National Archives. familyrecords.gov.uk, now archived. The records from the Family Records Centre are now divided between the two mentioned organisations.
- The National Archives brief guide Looking for records of a birth, marriage or death at sea or abroad
- Levantine Heritage: Registers levantineheritage.com. Retrieved 2 October 2014. The term “Levantines” designates primarily those Europeans and Americans who settled in the Levant - a region generally conterminous with the Ottoman Empire - from the early 17th century until 1923.
- 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.  Egypt Genealogy FamilySearch Wiki.
- 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.
- 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.
- There is also some information about deaths, including some photographs of grave inscriptions, scattered through the regimental pages on British Army Medical Services and the Malta Garrison 1799 – 1979. Includes a website Search
- Details of Malta Registers at The National Archives and Registers in Class ADM. Includes B, M, B. (Note: (selected) burials are now available online, refer above). Alan McGowan’s "Garrison Church Registers", now an archived website.
- Pieta Military Cemetery [Malta]findagrave.com. Memorials from the cemetery, almost completely photographed.
- 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 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 . There is also a Search for Gibraltar Inhabitants 1704-1914, based on transcriptions of Census data.
- FamilySearch has some Civil registration digitised images, see below in the Family Search item.
- Civil Status and Registration Office, Government of Gibraltar
- Gibraltar from Ireland & United KingdomGenWeb. Select ‘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 ‘Military Records’ for transcriptions by Donald Brett 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: rootschat.com 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.
- Trace and tell your family’s Empire stories with links to pages "Government Records of Britons in … " including
- 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, available at the British Library UIN: BLL01013623894 . This book accompanied the television series Empire's Children.
Historical books online
- "Monumental Inscriptions of the British Cemeteries in the Ionian Islands" by Ortho Alexander, British Consul, pages 13, 71, 110, 146, 320 Miscellanea genealogica et heraldica, Volume II, Fourth Series 1908. Many Army and Navy entries. Archive.org
- "Monumental Inscriptions in the English Cemetery in Ithaca" [Greek island] by Arthur F G Leveson Gower page 177 Miscellanea genealogica et heraldica Volume V Fourth Series 1914. Mainly military related. Archive.org
- The Msida Bastion cemetery , Malta : a brief history of the Msida Bastion cemetery and the research conducted by R. G. Kirkpatrick prepared and edited by James Cannon 1990. Includes military and seamen records. FamilySearch Digital Library. You need to sign in to FS to view the book.
- Comments about "The registers of Persons Baptised etc Abroad: [mainly Europe]" page 240 Registrum ecclesiae parochialis : the history of parish registers in England : also of the registers of Scotland, Ireland, the East and West Indies... by John Southerden Burn 2nd edition 1862 Archive.org.
- "British Births, Marriages and Deaths Overseas" FamilySearch Wiki, see External links above.
- "Fact Sheet: The British in India" from the now closed Family Records Centre, see External links above.
- 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.
- "England, Andrews Newspaper Index Cards, 1790-1976" Ancestry database.
- "GRO launches new digital services" by jonbauckham, 4 November 2016 whodoyouthinkyouaremagazine.com
- W., Hugh Genealoge September 06, 2008. Retrieved 8 January 2015
- "The Development of the Vital Statistics System in Egypt" by Gamal Askar January 1981.
- aitch2o Info ommitted from GRO supplied birth cert Who Do You Think You Are? Forum 21 November 2015, and later posts. Retrieved 5 December 2015.
- Gibraltar WorldGenWeb Project, now an archived webpage