Researching your ancestors from Great Britain and Ireland

A guide to researching your ancestors in England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands, using resources at State Library Victoria.

England and Wales

The civil registration of births, deaths and marriages began in England and Wales on July 1, 1837. Events were reported to a local registrar who then reported details to the superintendent of the registration district. Records were kept in the district and were also copied and forwarded, once every three months, to the Registrar General at the General Register Office.

When analysing your search results please be aware that the registration district is not usually the place of birth. Also, larger towns and cities were often made up of several registration districts, whereas rural areas had many villages and parishes included in a single district.


The indexes for the years 1837-1983 are in separate birth, death and marriage sequences. Each sequence is published quarterly - January-March, April-June, July-September and October-December.

Access from home

Access in the Library

Ordering certificates

Print copies of civil registration certificates for England and Wales can be ordered by mail or online from the General Register Office. When ordering certificates try and include the GRO index reference number for the certificate that you are interested in. Local Register Offices also hold records of events registered in their area.

Digital images of births from 1837 to 1922 and deaths from 1837 to 1887 can now be ordered from the GRO.

To find out what you will see on a certificate, go to the General Register Office FAQ page.