Through 1992, the GRO indexes for births and deaths in England and Wales cite a volume and page in the registers (as they have done since the inception of civil registration in 1837). After 1992, the reference switches to a format of register, subdistrict, and entry.

An example of the new system is:

Deaths Mar 1993
Name: George Robert Smith
Birth date: 26 Jun 1903
Registration district: Newark
Register number: 4C
District and subdistrict: 6882
Entry number: 63

I see that in Newark district (no. 688) at that time, there were two subdistricts - nos. 6881 and 6882. Especially with common names, it would be useful to be able to narrow down the death place to subdistrict using this information available in the index. However, I have been unable to find an explanation for these subdistrict codes.

How can I determine the area covered by a subdistrict from its code? Either boundary data (such as that available for districts) or a tabular resource would be fine.

  • You may be interested in the comments about the differences between the GRO indexes and those in local ROs in Peter Calver's Lost Cousins newsletter lostcousins.com/newsletters2/latemar16news.htm -- if you want to chat about this, we can do so in Roots.
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented Mar 28, 2016 at 3:57

1 Answer 1


As no answer has yet been attempted, I will give the disappointing results of my efforts to find this information - but still live in hope that someone can come up with a better solution!

The bottom line is that information about sub-district extent does not seem to be publically accessible.

The Office for National Statistics provide a number of resources about administrative geography on a page titled Names, codes and lookups.

I had hoped that the sub-district codes would be included in the Standard Names and Codes (SNAC) database, which although it contains a vast number of administrative codes including those for registration districts, does not include sub-districts. The SNAC was produced annually up until 2011, but previous versions cannot be located on their current website. Previous versions of the SNAC can be downloaded from archived copies of the website.

The Statistical Geographies Database, a spreadsheet available for download from the Open Geography Portal, confirms that registration sub-district information is not available in the SNAC, nor are they included in the Index of Place Names, and digital boundary information is unavailable for sub-districts.

As a final resort I turned to the Code History Database (CHD). This database is easily accessible from the Open Geography Portal and viewed using Microsoft Access. Under the 'Geography History' section is a database of boundary changes that occurred after 2009. Registration sub-districts are included here, although by this time many sub-districts had been abolished. For the example given in the question, as the sub-district was still in existence in 2009, I found that code 6882 corresponds to Southwell sub-district, while 6881 was Newark sub-district. However, I was really lucky to find this information in the CHD as the vast majority of pre-2009 sub-districts are not included.

I contacted the GRO with this question, and this is their response:

I am afraid we are not able to forward you a listing of districts/sub districts by name and number, such data is not available for sale from the General Register Office.

You will find , however, that the Office for National Statistics formerly the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys have in the past produced publications entitled "Index of Place Names" for each Census Year. These publications provide a district/sub district number for each place name recorded. You should be able to purchase a copy from The Stationery Office(TSO) formerly HMSO. Alternatively you may be able to view some of these free of charge at The National Archives at Kew.

Although GRO adopted the district /sub district numbers to form part of the Index reference in 1993, the registration district numbering arrangements go back many years to the very early census data. The numbers will also have changed over the years but I can tell you that 688/1 and 688/2 were used for Newark area for the 1981 census up to at least 2001.

A 2012 version of the Index of Place Names is available for free on the ONS website (linked above), however it does not include subdistrict information. Former versions may include this information, so it is an avenue to pursue.

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