I would like advice on entering more recent death references as source citation details. I tend to rely on whatever Ancestry creates but the newer stuff is not always there.

Admittedly, this is 2003, but it conveys the query I have.

  • GRO Reference Search Result

enter image description here

  • GRO Reference received in post with the Certificate

enter image description here

As you can see, the information is not presently exactly the same. So what exactly goes in my source citation?

4 Answers 4


They look the same to me, with the sole difference that the GRO Search reference says that the DOR is Q1 of 2003, while the Certificate says March of 2003. Fortunately, March is in Q1, so one is just slightly more granular than the other.

More importantly... the GRO Search Results are just that: search results, and thus unofficial.

The GRO Certificate is an official document, so use that as your source. Always use official documents when possible.

  • What does DOR stand for? Dec 19, 2020 at 16:43
  • 1
    @AndrewTruckle no clue... :0
    – RonJohn
    Dec 19, 2020 at 19:27
  • @AndrewTruckle Presumably the DOR = Date of registration, but it's impossible to tell from one document alone whether the 3/2003 refers to March as a month or to March as a quarter.
    – Jan Murphy
    Dec 20, 2020 at 0:05
  • 3
    @RonJohn I think it's a mistake to assume that a Month label is more granular than the numbered quarter label. Without recourse to the instructions for filling out the form, we don't know whether the March means the month of March or the March Quarter. Note that Ancestry, FreeBMD, and the GRO can all vary on how they label the Quarters, which is why I prefer to use the labels Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4 for the periods when the registrations are known to be quarterly. See genealogy.stackexchange.com/q/10355/1006 for more information.
    – Jan Murphy
    Dec 20, 2020 at 0:17
  • 1
    @RonJohn - the Date of Registration is the Quarter of Registration (until 1983). The indexes were compiled in the subsequent quarter until then. The idiocy is the GRO sometimes using Mar to denote Q1, instead of Jan-Feb-Mar or just Q1. (Updated as per info from Audrey Collins )
    – AdrianB38
    Dec 20, 2020 at 20:13

Up to 1983 the registers were quarterly, so the index entry gives the quarter when the event was registered. There is no way of telling the month of registration from the index entry alone. In 1984 the GRO moved from quarterly to annual indexes, and entries include the month of registration. But on their own site the GRO don't show the month, they have 'converted' them back to quarters. I've no idea why they have done this, except possibly for consistency with earlier years. The indexes on Ancestry and Findmypast, and the microfiche versions, include the month of registration, which in this case happens to be March, but there is no way you could tell this from the GRO's own online indexes alone.

  • 1
    Thanks. This explains the subtle difference between their online search results v their application printout issued with the certificate. Dec 20, 2020 at 13:13

Just wanted to add my support to Audrey's answer and to add a bit about citing references to GRO (English/Welsh) certificates.

There are now two versions of the GRO index.

  1. The contemporary handwritten/typeset/computer-generated indexes which were compiled up to 1983 in quarterly volumes and from 1984, in annual volumes. These were compiled by clerks at the GRO from the quarterly returns submitted by the local registration system.
  2. The GRO's own online index, launched in 2016, which was compiled from the GRO's own copies of the certificates.

Because of this, the two do not represent an exact match.

The original contemporary indexes have been digitised and 're-indexed' on a number of websites, including: FreeBMD Ancestry Findmypast

The index references up to 1983 are, however, to all intents and purposes, identical:

Entry from 'original' index via FreeBMD website

Entry from new GRO online index

Note that the latter includes the mother's maiden name - a detail which was NOT shown in the 'original' indexes until 1911.

In both cases, the full GRO reference comprises the following elements:

  • Year of registration

    Quarter of registration - usually shown either as MAR, JUN, SEP, DEC or Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4


    Registration District Volume

    Page Number

This reference is the only 'correct' way to cite a GRO certificate. The certificates themselves don't have a reference - all we have is the reference shown in the index so these ARE official references.

After 1984 an entirely different referencing system was adopted which I will attempt to describe in another answer. This one is long enough!

  • If I recall correctly, when I was doing a probate, I sent off for a batch of 5 or so DCs for the deceased. Each of those had a different stamped / printed sequence number. However, these identify the physical paper document and appear to be fundamentally useless as a reference number in the sense of a genealogist requesting that certificate, not least because the only way I know to find the ref num is to have the certificate in the first place.
    – AdrianB38
    Dec 20, 2020 at 20:28
  • The reference is essentially the details you used to order the certificates in the first place. It should consist of the following details: Year of registration Quarter of registration in the form MAR, JUN, SEP, DEC or Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4 - either will do. I prefer the latter as it removes the Month/Quarter confusion Name of the deceased District of Registration (after 1993 this will include an alpha-numerical code) Volume Page Number
    – Dave Annal
    Dec 22, 2020 at 9:08

In the original case above the only original document involved is the register entry held by the registration office.

In addition to the year/quarter, there are three elements which make up the unique reference.

District: Wigan & Leigh ( which has a code of 0181C)

Register Number: C19B (This refers to a physical binder containing individual register pages)

Entry Number: 130 ( The individual entry in the register - which will be out of 300)

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.