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How do I go about verifying birth & death details in England for an individual who lived and died in the 20th century?

As starting points I have a name of the deceased individual and his place of origin is assumed to be in England.

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For somebody (believed) born in England or Wales in the 20th century, the first point of reference is the GRO (General Register Office) Indices of Births, Marriages and Deaths (BMDs).

These can be searched online at a number of subscription websites but FreeBMD is free and has good coverage of births up to the early 60s and deaths up to the early 70s. (If the events you are interested in are later than these dates, you may need to pay to access a subscription site).

There's also a plethora of links at FreeBMD's civil registration information pages to help you understand what you're dealing with, but in essence:

  • BMDs are indexed by Name, Year, Quarter and Registration district. Depending on when the event took place, you may get other information to cross-check -- e.g. mother's maiden name (on births), age at death (on deaths).
  • If you know an individual's name and approximate (or estimated) birth date and/or place you can search for likely entries -- start by looking for the birth (as you need to know an approximate date of birth to cross-check the age recorded at death when checking the death indices).
  • You may need to narrow down the range of possible birth-dates from other things you know -- e.g. marriage date/birth of children, military service dates -- or do a very 'wide' search.
  • You will need to know which registration district covers the birth place. GenUKI will help with this.
  • Unless you have a very distinctive name to search on, you may come up with a number of candidate entries. You can order full certificates from the GRO but this can get expensive, and they're no longer very helpful in checking full details on the certificate to help you determine if it's the correct one before you pay. The Local Registrar's Office for a relevant event may be more helpful in that respect -- the GenUKI link will help you track the local office (for the event) down and gives phone and email contact details

If you can name the assumed place of origin, I may be able to refine this answer. A few (not every) local Registrar's Office have allowed their records to be indexed on line. If the area you're interested in has done so. You can look at UkBMD to point you in the right direction.

(Scotland and Northern Ireland will have different answers, which I hope somebody will come along to give for completeness).

| improve this answer | |
  • Do you mean go in person to my Local Registrar's Office or the one in my father's registration district? – user4055 Jun 17 '15 at 14:31
  • His place of origin is in England. – user4055 Jun 17 '15 at 14:49
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    @user4055 the one in your father's registration district but you don't need to go in person -- the info in the GenUKI site will let you contact them by phone/letter. – user104 Jun 17 '15 at 15:30

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