Information Held in Various Records

Please note that all extracts included in this blog are with the kind permission of the Chief Registrar of England and Wales and the  Registrar General of Scotland and are copyright protected.

One of the big questions when starting to research your family tree is " what information is there available in the various records?"so this blog is to address this issue.

The first thing you look for when searching for England and Wales entries is the Index.  You can search the index for free for entries up to approximately 1960 at  Here is an example of what the index shows:-

Once you have identified the entry you will have discovered, the area, the volume number and the page number of the entry in the register.  This information can be used to purchase a certificate.  This can be done online at or at the registry office where the event was registered.

From the third quarter (Oct, Nov, Dec) of 1911 mother's maiden names started to appear in the Birth Index and the spouse's surname in the Marriage Index.

Below are extracts of certificates which demonstrates the information you can expect to find on them.
Birth certificate for England or Wales

As you can see from the image above the birth certificate contains the following information:-

The number in the register the birth can be found.
Where and when the birth occurred.
The name, if any, of the child.
The sex of the child.
Name and surname of the father.
Name, surnname and maiden name of the mother
Father's occupation
Signature, description and residence of informant.
Date of when the birth was registered 
Signature of Registrar
Name entered after registration (this column is used if the child is unnamed when first registered)

However, Scottish records are different.  Here is an extract

Scottish birth certificates have the following information:-

Number on page
Name and Surname
When and Where born, includes the time of birth even when they are not a twin.
Name, Surname, Rank or Profession of Father, Mother's maiden Surname, Date and place of marriage.
Signature and qualification of the informant and Residence if not in the house that the birth occurred.
When and where registered and signature of Registrar.

Marriage certificate for England or Wales

 The marriage certificate as you can see from the extract above contains the following information:-

Where the marriage took place
The number it is in the register
When married
Name and surname of the bride and groom
The happy couples age.  Where is says full age means that they have reached the age of or over 21
Condition, if they had been married before it would say widow or divorcee in this column
Rank or profession
Fathers name and Surname
Fathers Rank or profession
Names of witnesses
Signature of the Registrar

Again the Scottish certificates give more information on the Marriage certificates:-

Number on page
When, Where and How married
Signatures of parties, Rank or Profession, Whether single or widowed.
Usual residence
Name, Surname, Rank or Profession of Father, Name and Maiden Surname of Mother
If a regular Marriage, signatures of officiating Minister and witnesses.  If irregular Marriage Date of conviction, Decree of Declaration or Sheriff's warrant
When and Where Registered and Signature of Registrar

Death certificate of England or Wales

As you can see from the example above you will discover:-

The number in the register
When and where the deceased died
Name and Surname of the deceased
Cause of death
Signature, description and residence of the informant
When registered
The Registrar

Scottish death certificates again show more information than the English and Wales counterparts.

From the extract you will discover:-

Number on page
Name, Surname, Rank or Profession and Marital Status
Date, time and place of death
Age at death
Name, Surname Rank or Profession of Father, Name and Mother's maiden name
Cause of death, duration of the disease and medical attendant by whom certified,
Signature and qualification of the informant and residence.  If out of the house at the time of death.
When and where registered and signature of registrar.

 Help can be found here:-

Beginning to Research your Family Tree

Starting to research your family tree can be daunting.  There is so much to think about when starting out and then there is the BIG question, Where do I start?  Hopefully this blog will be able to guide you in the right direction.

1.  Start with what you know as fact, yourself, your parents and possibly your grandparents.
2.  Talk to other family members, aunts, uncles, cousins and any elderly relatives.
3.  Get out the family photographs and try and name the people in them.  Put their names on the back.
4.  Write a simple family tree on paper, it can be invaluable for sorting out where everyone fits in your tree.
5.  Go to the Birth, Marriage and Death indexes (commonly referred to BMD index) and try to find                      your family members.  To see full details you will need to order a certificate.        has entries up to approximately 1984 although many years are
     incomplete.  For parish registers there is also and the          online parish clerk project

6.  If you find it difficult identifying your ancestor, try reversing their names.  Sometimes people
     were known by their middle names but appear in the register under a different first name.  Also
     try different spellings of surnames.  You should remember very few people could read and write
     so when asked for their name your ancestor could not say whether or not the registrar had
     spelt it correctly.  Also it may be mistranscribed by the transcriber who was indexing for the
     search engine.

7.  Once back to 1911 you can find your ancestors in the census records.  These will help you  
     pinpoint places of births, occupations and other family members.  These help you to begin to 
     build up a picture of your ancestors lives.

8.  It is important to verify the information at each stage.

9.  It should also be remembered that not all records are online.

For the history of civil registrations you may find it useful to read this article:-

Census's have been taken every 10 years since 1801 but contained a lot less information than the more modern ones. 

The 1801 census asked for the number of inhabited and uninhabited houses in the area and how many families where in residence.  It also asked for the number of people in the parish, and for the number of baptisms, marriages, burials and about employment. 

Additional questions where asked in 1811, 1821 and 1831 censuses.  In 1811 enumerators were asked why properties where uninhabited so that it could be more accurately determined how prosperous an area was.  In 1821 the additional questions related to age, so that life insurance tables and the number of men old enough to bear arms could be assessed and in 1831 more detailed questions on occupation where asked.  However, the 1841 census is the first one available to family historian and contains more detail than the earlier ones.   Although incomplete, is a very good resource.

From 1851 to 1901 the place of birth is more detailed. The 1911 census is special in that it was the first census that was filled in by the head of the household rather than an enumerator.

For help with your research find us by using the link below:-