The England & Wales Birth Index for 1916 through 2005 found at Ancestry has been updated to 1916 through 1983 this last week. The digitized images of the birth index pages are now through 1983. 1984 through 2005 are not digitized yet, but the data is still searchable and available at the site. The index database at Ancestry gives a tremendous amount of information all by itself, and is actually a bit more useful than the digital images. I’m not underrating the digitized page however, as that document is closer to the source. – and that’s what genealogists want.

I searched for Canfield births whose mother’s maiden name was Smith – and found ten of them (all pre-1984, so the digital pages are available).

Just for fun, I searched 2005, and there are 1,089,973 records in that year alone. 1983 (the last year currently digitized) had 724,659 registrations.

In reading the information found at Ancestry’s site, I found that civil registration of births, marriages and deaths started nationwide on 1 July 1837 in England and Wales. Registration was handled by local civil registrars, who reported to the GRO (Registrar General at the General Register Office) in London.

The original birth, marriage, and death registers are not open to the public, and access to the information on one of the certificates is obtained by searching the National birth, marriage, and death indexes created by the GRO. The indexes for the three events are divided into volumes by year, following which the entries are listed alphabetically.

Information that can be obtained from the Ancestry birth index alone (without even clicking for the digital image) is as follows:

  • Child’s full name
  • Mother’s maiden surname
  • Year & quarter of registration
  • Registration district (each county in England and Wales was divided up into registration districts. Note that jurisdictions are organized and appear as they existed at the time the record was created.
  • Inferred county (The inferred county is based on the counties that the registration district covered.)
  • Volume number
  • Page number

The district found in the index is the district where the event was registered, not necessarily the location where the event actually occurred. This is common to many genealogical documents, the GRO indexes included.

I did a number of searches on folks by the surname of Canfield. Searching 1950 alone, I 23 hits. The following screen shot is for the first six of them:

birth index canfield

After obtaining the above page, I clicked on the first entry and got the following screen. It’s actually just a bit more useful than the digital page from the original index (no screen print made for this blog), since the implied county is given, Computers are good at that stuff. Kent is not specifically stated in the GRO Index.

Francis Canfield Index entry

The following is copied from the Ancestry site:
Database Source Information:

Ancestry.com. England & Wales, Birth Index: 1916-2005 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2008. Original data: General Register Office. England and Wales Civil Registration Indexes. London, England: General Register Office. Published by permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Office for National Statistics.

Note that 1837-1915 Birth, Marriage and Death Indexes are also available as a separate database.