GRO indexes Archives

Ordering Recent Death Certificates in England & Wales

by Geoff Swinfield


I have recently completed a research project in which I was commissioned to obtain copies of over 200 death certificates of people who died in 2011 and 2012. This proved to be a very taxing task!

Online access to the indexes of registration for England and Wales extends only to the end of 2006 through and After that, currently to the end of the June 2012, they are only available for research on microfiche at seven large libraries. Those are the British Library and Westminster Archives in London and the main city libraries in Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle, Plymouth and Bridgend. Using the two access points in London, references were found for all the registrations. Now came the task of ordering copies of the documents.

The certificate ordering service of the General Register Office only allows copies of certificates which were registered more than six months ago to be requested at £9.25 each. Even then, a few could not be produced because, although the full reference appears in the national indexes, having been entered locally, copies of the documents have not yet found their way to the Registrar General’s collection in Southport. This enabled me to obtain 153 of the required copies.How was I to obtain the missing documents and the more recent registrations which amounted to 52? They would have to come from the local registrars.

Armed with the name of the relevant registration district, the number of the individual subdistrict and the 9-digit national reference number for each event, all of which appear in the national indexes, I naively believed that, by contacting each register office, this would be a straightforward process.

I was amazed to learn that the unique national number, attributed to each recently-registered event since the beginning of 2011, means virtually nothing locally. Most did not know what it meant or stated that “no-one has ever given us that information before when applying for a copy”. One registrar was surprised that I could quote the number and could use it to identify the correct document. Most required to know in which of their districts the event had been registered. Of course, I did not know that as the national indexes only provide a (sub)district number. Foolishly, I thought that by telling Surrey that the event was recorded in their area “7591L” that would inform them whether the document was at Guildford, Weybridge or any of their other offices. No such joy.

Incidentally, the 9-digit reference appears on every very recent (2011/12) certified copy, whether it comes from the GRO or a local registrar. This is presumably generated by the Registration Online (RON) project which was to enable rapid capture centrally of new registrations. Why can’t this be used to identify and produce any certified copy, wherever it is ordered or issued?

Often, the telephone was answered by a call centre which also dealt with the council tax and non-collection of waste. Application could only be made “on completion of a form” and I was asked to provide information about where the person had lived and died and in the case of women their maiden surname! None of which I knew! That is what I wanted to discover by obtaining a certified copy for my client.

How much was I charged for my pains? A number of the offices wanted me to tell them if the copy I needed was in a “current” or an “archived” volume as that determined its price. This was regularly quoted at £7 for a very recent record but £10 if the relevant volume was now full. As I did not have access to their records, I was at loss to know how I could have that answer! They would have to go to check.

What I eventually paid ranged from £15 as the standard charge for each copy from Monmouthshire down to as little as £4 for a certificate from South Gloucestershire. They are certainly a law unto themselves.

What struck me about the whole project was that, despite the objective of the DoVE (Digitisation of Vital Events) system, introduced in 2005 and suspended in 2010, which would link local registrars together, streamline the registration process and provide centralised access to records, this has not been achieved in any shape or form.

Useful Links:

Order BMD Certificates

Civil Registration (GENUKI page)

Holders of GRO Indexes

Register Offices in England and Wales




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Three Photographs


We were recently asked if we could help discover more about a photo of a lady in a wedding dress. Barbara Willis looks after the photo collection at the Priest’s House Museum in Wimborne, Dorset. She explained that some years ago they had been given three photos and a dress by a local lady. The dress is a long gown with a print of pink and gold flowers. Luckily, the photos had been labelled on the back. Wouldn’t it be good if all our ancestors had taken the time to do that? The dress had been featured in an exhibition of wedding dresses at the Museum and Barbara wanted to know if it would be possible to find out a little more about the people in the photos, especially the lady in the dress.


Barbara Budden wedding dress 8.10.38




Father Mother Dorothy Blake & Barbara. Just before 2nd war at Acton. Parents Golden Wedding anniversary












August 1920 Constantinople. Capt E J B Budden Middlesex Regt







Luckily, we had a date in 1938 and what we thought was a fairly uncommon surname. The people at the Museum thought the donor of the items was a Mrs Blake-Budden, but there is no birth, marriage or death to be found in the indexes of general registration for anyone with the surname Blake-Budden. As the group photo referred to Blake and Barbara, perhaps there were the forenames of the couple. Disappointingly, there were also no entries in the indexes for a man called Blake Budden.

A search for the marriage of anyone called Barbara to a man with the surname Budden met with more success. There were only two during the 1930s and one of these was for a groom with the same initials as the soldier photographed in Constantinople. Eustace J B Budden and Barbara S Budden married in Chelsea registration district in the December quarter of 1938. The surname Budden is apparently much more common that we had first thought, especially in the Dorset area. Perhaps the couple were cousins. We could conduct further searches in the future to check that out.

Eustace James B Budden was born in the Brentford district in 1891. We also found his baptism online at, which confirms that his full name was indeed Eustace James Blake Budden, christened on 15th September 1891 at St Mary’s, Acton. He was the son of Robert Blake and Edith Westaway Blake, of 5 Rosemont Road. Perhaps he preferred being called Blake rather than Eustace!

The family was found in the census of 1891 living at Rosemont Road, in 1901 at Florence Road, Ealing, and in 1911 at 43 Corfton Road, Ealing. They were all Londoners and Eustace was their only child. The parents, Robert Blake Budden and Edith Westaway Force, married in 1890 at Brentford.

Budden household 1911, 43 Corfton Road, Ealing

The 1911 census described Blake as “Student, University College”.  From an online list of all graduates from 1836 to 1926, we found that Blake obtained his BSc at University College London and appears to have graduated as late as 1919, with the Great War interrupting his studies. There is a World War I medal card for him, also available through Ancestry which confirms that he was a captain in the Middlesex Regiment.


The National Archives holds an officer’s record file for him  (WO 374/10605). It tells us that Blake was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in 1910, after serving in the Officer Training Corps whilst he was at Repton School. At the outbreak of war, he was on an extended stay in Frankfurt and was taken prisoner there in August 1914. He saw no active service, remaining a prisoner for the duration of the War and was repatriated shortly after the Armistice in November 1918. Soon after his capture, his father, Robert, wrote to the War Office to enquire whether there was any possibility of Blake being included in an exchange of British nationals, suggesting that his knowledge of languages would make him a useful officer if only he could be released. After the war, Blake served as a Railway Traffic Officer with the Allied Forces of Occupation in Constantinople. He relinquished his commission in 1922 and travelled back to Britain on the Orient Express.


Barbara Sloggett Budden’s birth was registered in the March quarter of 1900 in the Christchurch district of Dorset. Her death in Bournemouth in June 1990 gives the exact date as 30 January 1900. She donated the dress and photos to the Museum just two years before she died.

Barbara’s family were living at Boscastle, Iddesleigh Road, Bournemouth in 1901 and 1911. Her father, Horace, was a merchant tailor and her older sister, Dorothy, was still at home in 1901. By 1911 she was living with relatives in Hammersmith. Horace Budden had married Laura Evangeline Anderson in Brighton in 1889.

As Robert Blake Budden died in 1932, at the age of 77, in Brentford district, the group photo must be of Barbara’s parents’ golden wedding anniversary, rather than Blake’s.

Apart from Blake’s service record, which we copied at The National Archives,  the rest was all discovered during an evening’s browsing on the internet.