Every now and again when I am searching the GRO indexes of births or deaths, I find a nearby registration where the Registration District is not what I expect.

The most recent example is:

FreeBMD results:

Births Dec 1891 LUSCOMBE Albert Edward Totnes 5b 179

For the person I was researching, I would have expected a registration in Kingsbridge. When I searched the online index on the GRO's certificate ordering website, I found this result:

LUSCOMBE, ALBERT EDWARD (BURGOYNE) GRO Reference: 1891 D Quarter in KINGSBRIDGE Volume 05B Page 179

Note that the Volume and page are the same for both these registrations.

I don't want to order the certificate from the GRO simply to find out what it says. Can I use the techniques in the related question What "hidden" clues are there in the GRO Indexes of births and deaths? to do a check on the data before I order?

Or is the solution much more straightforward? What if I simply look at all registrations for Totnes Volume 5B page 179 on FreeBMD, then search the GRO's index to see if the other entries are Kingsbridge as well?

I have checked this single entry on the images at FreeBMD and other sites, and the printed index does say Totnes. Since FreeBMD's indexers take great care in their work, I suspect I may have stumbled on a case where the printed index is at fault. The GRO's online index, though it has errors of its own, was generated by going back to the original quarterly returns.

How would you investigate this discrepancy?

1 Answer 1


My suspicion is that the printed index (and therefore FreeBMD) is correct. I used FreeBMD to search - because it doesn't demand boring stuff like names. All the analysis below describes the content of FreeBMD unless stated otherwise.

Q4 v.5B p.179 Eleven entries (one is duplicated in 2 spelling variants) for Totnes.

Several previous pages all for Totnes.

Q4 v.5B p.180 No entries. This empty page leads me to be confident (foolishly?) about where the boundary between Totnes and Kingsbridge is.

Q4 v.5B p.181 Ten entries for Kingsbridge. Several following pages all for Kingsbridge.

My theory would be that the Totnes entries were bound into the volume 5B first, with the last pages being 179 and 180. (Are the original GRO register pages double sided? Quite possibly, if they were written out at Totnes, in which case it would suggest that the odd numbered pages are the front of a sheet, with the even numbered pages on the rear of the sheet. If so, then the last sheet for Totnes appears to be p.179 & 180.)

Then the Kingsbridge sheets (or pages) were bound into volume 5B, starting with page 181.

Quite why the modern GRO indexers recorded p.179 as Kingsbridge (Frederick Gillard is also down as Kingsbridge on the GRO site) is unknown - maybe the top of p.179 is torn leaving p.181's heading to show through??? But that's clearly speculation.

To answer the original question - that's how I'd investigate - showing full pages in FreeBMD can be illuminating, especially when there are more entries than 10 on a page (or whatever the usual number is).

Background from the answer to the linked question:

  • Each sub-district in the register usually starts on a right-hand page (odd numbered).
  • Through Jun qtr 1911 there were up to 10 entries per page of the GRO birth and death indexes. From Sep qtr 1911 onward there were 6 entries per page.
  • 1
    I just added some background from the @Harry-Vervet reply to the linked question, which confirms that the "start" page is (usually) odd numbered and gives the number of entries per page.
    – AdrianB38
    Nov 12, 2019 at 15:06

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