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Can't find an entry in the indexes?

Failure to find a birth, marriage or death entry in the indexes may be for these reasons:

  • The event took place in another year or quarter. (t is worth searching a couple of years either side of the expected date.
  • Before 1875 there was no penalty for non-registration and there may be omissions in the birth and death registers. A study by Hughes comparing Liverpool baptismal records with registered births has shown a shortfall of almost 33 per cent as late as 1874. You may need to look at parish and non-parochial registers until 1875.
  • Before 1927 there was no formal adoption procedure and there is no record of the birth of the adopted child under the name by which he or she was known.
  • There may have been a clerical error when the entry in the local registrar's register was transferred to the central register.
  • Some people were known by a christian name which was not the first forename on their birth certificate.
  • The child may not have been named by the date of registration. Entries under the sex of the infant are given at the end of each surname section.
  • In the nineteenth century at least 10 per cent of marriages took place after the birth of the first child.
  • A birth or marriage may have been registered by the Army.
  • Registers of births on Lundy Island, in the Bristol Channel, were treated as foreign registers, and are in the PRO, in RG 32-RG 35, indexed by the general indexes in RG 43. Some records from the Channel Islands were treated the same way.
  • Did the event happen somewhere outside England and Wales? Try the registers of births, marriages and deaths at sea or overseas for people normally resident in England and Wales.
  • People normally resident in Scotland, Ireland and Northern Ireland will be found in the registers kept there (including registers of births, marriages and deaths at sea or overseas).

It may be worth checking the Registrar General's correspondence on births, marriages and deaths, from 1874, at Kew (RG 48). These papers include files on individual cases of difficulty, but some are closed for 50 or 75 years.

Announcements of many births, marriages and deaths may be found in local newspapers held in public libraries and in the British Library Newspaper Library collection at Colindale.

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