Users' Guide to the Birth Indexes
- What areas are covered by the indexes?
- What information is contained in the indexes?
- How do I order a birth certificate?
- Can I see the original records?
- Why are the reference numbers different from the national birth indexes?
- Why can't I find a birth in the indexes?
- What if the child was adopted?
- What should I do if I find a mistake in the indexes?
1. What areas are covered by the indexes?
Our aim is to eventually cover all births which took place in West Midlands between 1837 and 1950 and beyond.
These records are now held at many separate register offices:
The Registration Districts in West Midlands have changed considerably since 1837, and very few records are now held at the offices where they were initially registered.
For the purposes of registering births, West Midlands was divided into dozens of Registrar's Sub-Districts. A full list of the Sub-Districts included in the database so far can be found on the Coverage of the Birth Indexes page, which also shows the years for which the records have been indexed, and the places included within each Sub-District.
Because there are separate sets of records for each Sub-District, the dates covered will vary. But more information will be added to the database as soon as it becomes available, and the latest additions will be noted on the Updates page.
2. What information is contained in the indexes?
From the indexes, you can find out:
(a) The Name of the child, as shown in the registers. If the child's parents were unmarried, and both are named on the certificate, then the child should be indexed under both surnames. Some children had not been given forenames by the time of registration, and are simply recorded as 'Male' or 'Female'.
(b) The Year in which the birth was registered. Remember that the year relates to when the child was registered, and that a child born in December 1849 may not have been registered until January or February 1850, for example.
(c) The Sub-District where the birth was registered, which should be the same as where the child was born. There is a list showing the places within each Sub-District.
(d) The Register Office in West Midlands which now holds the records. There have been a large number of boundary changes between districts since the start of registration in 1837, and as a result many records have been moved around.
(e) The Registrar's Reference Number for the birth entry, which can be used to order the birth certificate. It is important to note that this is only applicable at the register office which holds the records, and is of no use anywhere else.
Please bear in mind that until recently the main purpose of these indexes was to supply certified copies of entries in registers. They were therefore written to help the registrar find an entry on information supplied by the applicant for the certificate. Consequently, they do not always provide information in an ideal form for family historians.
3. How do I order a birth certificate?
If you find an entry you are interested in, it is possible to order a birth certificate, which is a copy of the full entry from the original register. This normally contains the following information:
- Date and place of birth
- Forename(s) of the child
- Sex of the child
- Name and surname of the father
- Name, surname and maiden name of the mother
- Father's occupation
- The name and address of the person registering the birth
- Date of registration
Applications for certified copies of the birth entries should be made to:
|Address||Payments to:||Credit Cards|
Superintendent Registrar Stourbridge Branch Office,
Dudley District Register Office
Sandwell Register Office
The Register Office
Family historians are requested to apply for certificates by post and not call casually at the Register Office. Whilst staff will always try to help, they do have other statutory duties to carry out every day and are often very busy with current births, deaths and marriages. Postal applications are normally dealt with promptly as they are received.
An application should include:
- the reference number supplied in the index - this is most important.
- the name of the child
- the names of one or both of the parents (if known)
- the date of birth or registration (to within five years is sufficient)
Do not forget to include all the information asked for in the application - the better the information supplied, the greater the chance of being supplied with the certificates required. And a stamped addressed envelope will help get the certificate back to you more quickly. Applications sent from outside the UK should enclose two International Reply Coupons with their self-addressed envelope instead of stamps.
The fee for each certificate is £10.00 and should be sent with the application. Cheques should be crossed "/&Co/". Do Not Send Cash.
Applicants wishing to pay by credit card should include in their applications the relevant
details, i.e. type of card, name of cardholder, card number and date of expiry.
Please note that at present not all register offices can accept credit card payments
4. Can I see the original records?
No. Original records of births, marriages and deaths held at register offices in England and Wales are not open to the public, and by law information can only be released in the form of certificates issued by the registrars.
5. Why are the reference numbers different from the national birth indexes?
The national indexes of births in England and Wales at Myddleton Place (formerly at St. Catherine's House or Somerset House) list all children whose birth was registered in each quarter year from 1837. They show the name of the child, the mother's maiden surname (from 1912 only), the name of the registration district (as it existed when the birth was registered), and a volume and page number, which is unique to the General Register Office and of no use to local registrars.
Every three months since July 1837, registrars have been required to send copies of their birth register entries to the General Register Office. For various reasons, sometimes entries were missed, or details were copied incorrectly from the register; this can usually explain differences between certificates ordered by the GRO and those obtained from local register offices. Generally speaking, registers and indexes held by the local offices are less prone to error, and should therefore be more accurate than those at the GRO.
6. Why can't I find a birth in the indexes?
A quick glance through the indexes reveals some unusual spellings of common names, and this often explains why a birth can be hard to find. In the early days of registration, and because of the high level of illiteracy, the mother or father told the name and surname to the registrar, who would spell them as he heard them. If the parentsn could not read or write, they would not know whether the names were being spelled consistently. For example, people looking for the Muir family may not yhink to look under 'Mewr', or 'Raleigh' under 'Rolli', and a degree of lateral thinking may be required.
To help overcome this problem the search pages have the ability to try to list names that sound similar but are spelled differently. Hint and tips about getting the best from the search of the indexes on this web site are available here.
As noted above, some children were still unnamed when their births were registered, and so they appear simply as 'Male' or 'Female'. Although it was possible in certain circumstances for names to be added to or altered on certificates after the initial registration, this was uncommon.
If you are satisfied that a name does not appear in the indexes, then your ancestor may have been born outside the area. It was not unusual for mothers to give birth away from home, particularly while staying with parents or other relations. The GRO indexes may be helpful in locating where the birth took place, but please remember that a lot of records have moved around due to boundary changes between districts.
7. What if the child was adopted?
If a child was adopted, the record of its adoption would not be held at the local Register Office. Records of adoptions in England and Wales (adoptions since 1 January 1927 under the Adoption Acts) are held by the Registrar General.
A standard Adoption Certificate is a full copy of the entry in the Adopted Children Register which, instead of giving particulars of parents and birth registration, gives the date of birth (if known) and details of the adoption and adoptive parents.
Applications for Adoptions Certificates should be made in writing to: Adoptions Section, Office for National Statistics, Smedley Hydro, Birkdale, Southport, PR8 2HH.
If you know that the entry you require relates to a person who was subsequently adopted, and you wish to have a copy of the original entry, please state this in your application.
8. What should I do if I find a mistake in the indexes?
Although every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of these indexes, it is possible that an occasional mistake or omission can occur. If you think you have found an error then please send an e-mail to: West Midlands BMD Webmaster, giving as many details as possible.