My question is partially related to Cost of BMD Certificates in England and Wales.

Having purchased an 1865 Marriage Certificate from the General Register Office (GRO), I would like to share it with others whose ancestor's names appear upon it. I have an Ancestry.com subscription, so could easily upload it there, but am concerned about whether that is legal to do. I expected the certificate to arrive with information about the purposes I could and could not use it for but, other than a CAUTION about falsifying certificates and a WARNING that it is not proof of identity, the only other text that concerns me is that it says CROWN COPYRIGHT.

Does anyone know an online reference, or text from elsewhere, that clearly states whether I am or am not allowed to post an historical certificate at Ancestry.com or another online location?

1 Answer 1


The National Archives published a guidance note in 2009: Copying of birth, death, marriage and civil partnership certificates (pdf). It covers the terms under which the image of a certificate from the GRO and the other UK registries can be copied. An extract:


You are authorised to reproduce the layout of the form in any format including on the web, in films and in print. This authorisation is subject to the following conditions:

That you must not use reproductions of certificates to provide evidence of birth, death, marriage or civil partnership. Where a copy is required to provide evidence that an event was registered you must order an official certificate (’extract’ in Scotland) from a local registration office or General Register Office

That the material is not used to advertise or promote a particular product or service, or in a way which could imply endorsement by HM Government

That you comply with the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Human Rights Act 1998.

This guidance does not authorise you to reproduce the contents of any certificate containing personal data about living individuals

So, yes, you can use the image, providing it does not mention living individuals.

It also states "The Crown does not assert any rights of ownership in the contents of the forms.", in other words the facts are not Crown Copyright, just the layout.

There are already some certificates on Flickr and other photo sharing sites, you could post it there as well with some good keywords so it's not only available on a subscription site.

  • 1
    Many thanks for that quick response which is excellent news!
    – PolyGeo
    Commented Nov 10, 2012 at 7:19
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    The link in the answer seems not to work. Try this nationalarchives.gov.uk/documents/information-management/… . The above is published by The National Archives, not the GRO. Copyright is still asserted, but you can reproduce certificates because permission has been given through 'Open Government' license. You must abide by the terms of that licence, the essence of which is summarised in the note. Anyone know where to find the detail of these licenses?
    – Sue Adams
    Commented Nov 10, 2012 at 8:37
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    Thanks for correcting the link, looks like something shortened it when I pasted it. I've expanded the answer a little to make clear it's a National Archives note and to clarify where the (licensed) copyright is. Sue, the Open Government license is on the PDF document (the content of the guidance note), not on the certificates. There is a link to it on the first page.
    – Rob Hoare
    Commented Nov 10, 2012 at 9:00
  • Moved again. See cdn.nationalarchives.gov.uk/documents/information-management/…
    – ACProctor
    Commented Jan 24, 2022 at 18:33

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