Tracing family history
Register offices hold birth, marriage and death records since civil registration began in July 1837, up to the present day. Record offices are quite different, as they hold a very wide variety of records which have been deposited by individuals, institutions, societies and government departments.
Most register office records are not open to public inspection, although certified copies of the information in a birth, marriage or death entry can be purchased as a copy certificate.
People tracing their family history usually consult a number of different sources and will often purchase certificates to get the next vital clue when their research becomes complex, or to get biographical/medical details about their ancestors.
Although record offices hold copies of church marriage registers, the birth, death, and all marriage records after 1837 are only available through the register office covering the district where the event occurred, or through their central office (the General Register Office). Different access rules apply for stillbirth, adoption and civil partnership records, as well as overseas records - it is recommended that, in these cases, you contact the General Register Office
General Register Office index reference numbers are not required when applying for an historic copy certificate from a register office, but the approximate year is essential and the quarter and district are useful in the absence of precise details. Historical searches usually take a little longer to be despatched.
Tracing birth/natural parents
If you were adopted through a court in England or Wales and you are aged 18 years or over, the law allows you to gain access to your birth details. These details will enable you to purchase a certified copy of your original birth entry.
If you were adopted before 12 November 1975, you are required to receive the information from an approved adoption adviser. This can be an adviser at either your local Adult Services, the General Register Office in Southport, an approved Intermediary Agency or, under certain circumstances, the agency that handled your adoption.
If you were adopted on or after 12 November 1975, you are able to choose whether you would like to see an approved adoption adviser or have the information sent directly to you.
If you live outside the UK
If you were adopted in England or Wales and now live outside the UK you can apply to access your birth records. If you are required to receive your information from an adoption adviser it is possible for this to take place in the country where you are currently living, as long as a suitable organisation is available.
Your local Register Office is not able to supply an adoption certificate, but you can apply to the General Register Office. or BAAF Adoption Serch Reunion