Hi Everyone,

I hope you are finding our sessions useful. We have looked at what information we can glean from a birth certificate and we have started a family tree at the Ancestry UK website.

We have discovered there are (in England & Wales) long and short birth certificates. When a birth is registered, parents are issued with a free copy of the short certificate, which contains only the child’s details. Long certificates, which contain both child’s and parents’ details, are available on request and upon payment of a fee. For genealogical purposes a long certificate is what you need. Scotland has its own system of registration, and birth and marriage certificates contain much more useful information.

We have looked at what information is on a marriage certificate and on a death certificate.

What information is on a birth/marriage/death certificate:


To obtain (England & Wales) birth/marriage/death certificates go to “www.gro.gov.uk“, where a certificate costs £9.25 for the standard service. You need to register (free) to use this site.

In Scotland go to “www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk“, where older certificates (above 100 years) can be downloaded using pre-bought credits (newer certificates, not downloadable, can be bought for around £14).

It is also possible to go to the Register Office where the event was registered and obtain a certificate for about £10.

In England and Wales, registration commenced in the third quarter of 1837. In Scotland it began in 1855.

We have looked at FreeBMD’s website (“https://www.freebmd.org.uk/“), which can be used to find the registration details for birth/marriage/death. A more limited search can now also be be made at the GRO website but this does have the advantage that births can be searched with the mother’s maiden name and deaths can be searched using age at death.

We have looked at various households’ census details. There has been a census every ten years since 1801 (except in 1941 due to war, and 1931 was destroyed by fire). Although you might be lucky and find names in the 1821 and 1831 returns for a few places, for genealogical purposes the 1841 census is the starting point. The census returns help you to put whole families together in the specific years. The 1841 census is a bridge between the start of official registration and the earlier parish records. More on this in a later session, but if you are interested in finding out more about the census there are comprehensive details for each one at “http://www.1911census.org.uk/1911.htm

Using the details from a birth certificate we have started building a family tree at “Ancestry.co.uk“. This can be done even if you haven’t got a subscription – you just won’t be able to search for records. A tree can also be built at “FindMyPast.co.uk” and a free tree can be built at the Mormon FamilySearch website, “https://familysearch.org/“.

Talking of FamilySearch, I had a very timely email from them with news of various things and included was a link to:

Getting Started with Family History (By Starting at the Beginning)

We have looked at various wills and how the handwriting has changed over time. Wills are an important resource as they often mention other family members and may specify what the relationship is. The National Archives website has a tutorial on old handwriting on its palaeography pages.

Information about the ‘management’ of wills over time can be found at the Federation of Family History Societies website:

A focus on Wills