The General Register Office (GRO) yesterday launched a new online index for births in England and Wales that lists the mother’s surname for all births from 1837 to 1915. Previously, the mother’s surname only appeared in the GRO index from 1912 onwards.

And in a second development, the age at death has been added to its new index for all deaths from 1837 to 1957. Until now, the age at death has only appeared in the index for deaths after 1865.

These important initiatives will make it much easier for family historians to check that they have the right entry for their ancestors and family members before ordering a certificate.

The two new indexes are currently only available on the GRO’s own website. To access them, click on the ‘Order certificates online’ link on the home page and then register with your email address and a password. You can search freely without committing to buy a certificate.

Digital copies of certificates to be trialled too

From 9 November 2016 the GRO will also be trialling a new service under which uncertified PDF copies of previously digitised entries in the birth and death indexes will be available at a reduced price of £6 (a paper certificate currently costs £9.25). The years of coverage for historic entries are as follows:

  • Births: 1837 to 1934
  • Deaths: 1837 to 1957

The trial is due to last for three weeks. However, it may close earlier as only 45,000 PDFs will be available at this price during the trial period.