Can anyone tell me what sort of information I will find on an UK death certificate from 1908?

I think my great-great-grandfather died in a work house in 1908 and was hoping his death may have been registered by my great-great-grandmother.

I am presuming his official address would have been the workhouse even though his wife was living with their youngest daughter and son-in-law according to census records in 1901.

Both great-great-grandparents registered on the census as being "Married" but obviously at different addresses. By 1911 my great-great-grandmother was marked as a "Widow" and was still living with her daughter.

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    – PolyGeo
    Feb 1, 2016 at 12:39

4 Answers 4


There is no such thing as a UK death certificate

This question highlights a common misconception that the UK is more or less equivalent to England, but for genealogical purposes it is important to recognize the distinction.

In 1908, the UK was the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, thus comprised of 4 countries: England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. Of course, after Irish independence in 1922, only Northern Ireland remained part of the UK.

The relevance for family history? Civil registration in these countries was regulated by these countries separately, with the notable exception that England and Wales were administered as a single jurisdiction. The UK does not issue death certificates.

Therefore, when asking for what information a UK death certificate contained in 1908, do you mean a certificate from England, Wales, Scotland, or Ireland?


A 1908 death certificate from Scotland has the following columns:

  • Number [in Register]
  • Name and Surname, Rank or Profession, and whether Single, Married, or Widowed
  • When and Where Died
  • Sex
  • Age
  • Name, Surname, & Rank or Profession of Father, and Name, and Maiden Surname of Mother
  • Cause of Death, Duration of Disease, and Medical Attendant by whom certified
  • Signature & Qualification of Informant, and Residence, if out of the House in which the Death occurred
  • When and where Registered, and Signature of Registrar

An example Scotland death entry from 1908:

enter image description here

Image obtained from ScotlandsPeople.


A 1908 death certificate from Ireland has the following columns:

  • Number [in Register]
  • Date and Place of Death
  • Name and Surname
  • Sex
  • Condition [as to Marriage]
  • Age last Birthday
  • Rank, Profession, or Occupation
  • Certified Cause of Death and Duration of Illness
  • Signature, Qualification and Residence of Informant
  • When Registered
  • Signature of Registrar

An example Ireland death entry from 1912 (it was the same format in 1908):

enter image description here

Image obtained from the Irish Genealogy Toolkit website

England & Wales

The information contained on a death certificate from England and Wales has been given in other answers, but I will include it here as well for completeness. A 1908 death certificate from England and Wales has the following columns:

  • Number [in Register]
  • When and Where died
  • Name and Surname
  • Sex
  • Age
  • Occupation
  • Cause of Death
  • Signature, Description and Residence of Informant
  • When Registered
  • Signature of Registrar

An example England death entry from 1907 (it was the same format in 1908):

enter image description here

Image obtained from the Bob Anderson's Family History website

As you can see, there are notable differences between the information contained on death certificates from each of the countries of the UK. The Scottish certificates contain the most useful genealogical information – parents' name and occupations, as well as marital status. Irish certificates are similar to those from England and Wales but they also contain a column for marital status.

Also keep in mind that death records were entries made in registers very much like you might search when you are looking for a baptism or burial. A death certificate (a certified entry of death) is only made when you request it – before that, it is simply an entry in a death register. The examples from Scotland and Ireland above are thus not death certificates per se, they are simply excerpts of pages from the death register. In England and Wales the public is not allowed to access the death registers, which is why ordering a certified copy of the death entry is our only means to access the information contained in the death registers.


The informant on a death certificate has to be legally "qualified" to give the information. There is an order of precedence for qualification starting with a family relative, but can also, in a case like this, include the person in charge of the premises where the death took place.

As you only want a certificate issued if a family member is the informant, then it would be advisable to contact the registration office which holds the original register and ask them to check/issue rather than ordering from GRO ( General Register Office).

To clarify one of the issues raised by other comments - there is no problem in publishing BMD certificates on-line. The guidance from GRO is quite specific and available here:


  • Well, I now have a lot more information on how and where to look. I have also spoken to Dudley Archives this morning and they advise me that they do have a Dudley Union Workhouse record from 1908 and also Burial records that may assist me, and plan to visit them in the near future, so thanks to all that have made positive and helpful comments.
    – Julie F
    Feb 2, 2016 at 15:12

One thing to bear in mind is that from 1904 onwards certificates tend to use euphemistic addresses for workhouses. As http://workhouses.org.uk/addresses/ explains the Registrar General directed that an "ordinary street address" be used.

Initially that was only for births, and deaths only officially used the same addresses from 1920 onwards, but in practice I suspect you might well find them used earlier.

You'll find that page on workhouses.org.uk has details of most of the addresses that were used for the various workhouses on certificates.

Even before the switch to street addresses you won't necessarily find the workhouse mentioned directly - the phrase "Union House" is common for example and I have one example from 1848 where the baptism register says "Union House" but the birth certificate just gives the name of the town as the place of birth.


An England & Wales Death Certificate ordered from the General Register Office will contain a scanned image of the registrars written transcript. In more or less the same format as a Birth Certificate from the same period.

The fields on an England & Wales Death Certificate from 1908 would have:

  • 'No.' (The Reference Number)
  • 'When and where died' (An Exact date usually with a place name or street address)
  • 'Name and surname' (Full Name)
  • 'Sex' (Male/Female)
  • 'Age' (Age when died i.e 76, not '76 and 59 days')
  • 'Occupation' (The occupation of the person that died according to the informant)
  • 'Cause of death' (A cause, certified by a processional, i.e 'Carcinoma, verified by John Smith)
  • 'Signature, description and residence of informant' (The name of the informant, what relation they are to the deceased and where they are currently living)
  • 'When registered' (The date the death was registered)
  • 'Signature of registrar' (The person who registered the death)

With regards to the second part of your question: 'I am presuming his official address would have been the workhouse even though his wife was living with their youngest daughter and son-in-law according to census records in 1901.'

The address would have been what ever the informant gave. So if his wife was the informant she might have put it as either depending on the circumstances.

See this leaflet from HM Passport Office, "Guide to Death Certificates" (downloadble PDF).

  • If you have a link to the source of your information about those fields, I think you should include it.
    – PolyGeo
    Feb 1, 2016 at 12:41
  • Thank you for the info Danny, I was hoping that there would be informant information. I can now apply for a certificate and stipulate that the informant must be a named family member on a list that I will supply to the registrar. This hopefully will stop me having to waste yet another tenner on a certificate which is of no use to me whatsoever :D Regards , Julie
    – Julie F
    Feb 1, 2016 at 12:43
  • 1
    @PolyGeo My source is a personal death certificate from 1908 which I cannot post. There are numerous 1908 certificate scans on websites however I don't feel I can include a copy in my question in case of copyright but a quick google image search for '1908 UK Death certificate' brings up lots of results.
    – Danny B
    Feb 1, 2016 at 12:46
  • @JulieF This is a good link "Have you any dead certs" for recycling any certificates ordered by mistake: lostcousins.com/newsletters2/jul15news.htm#DeadCerts
    – PolyGeo
    Feb 1, 2016 at 12:48
  • I was thinking that it must have come from some sort of guide to UK death certificates.
    – PolyGeo
    Feb 1, 2016 at 12:50

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