This was introduced with effact from the 1st. July 1837. It became a legal requirement for all births,
marriages and deaths to be reported to the local registrar. Indexes to the entries are available at The
National Archives, Kew; many County Record Offices; online genealogy sites; etc.
Note that the scheme to digitise the indexes formerly held at the Family Records Centre (which is closing
in November 2007) is now running at least a year behind schedule.
If the father/husband was in the army or Royal Navy, or the event took place abroad, then it's likely that
the event will not appear in the normal Civil Regstration index but in one of the other indices held
at The National Archives, Kew.
Especially in the early days, it is now clear that not all entries were registered.
The problems of spelling described above (under Church Records) also existed for civil registration
entries. So you must always consider alternate spellings when checking the indices.
Registration districts don't fall perfectly in line with county boundaries. Therefore you may have
to look slightly away from where you expected.
A 1901 census example: Penge falls in London, Kent and Croydon, Surrey.
The national indices do contain errors and omissions (there's a procedure for reporting them).
Mistakes were sometimes corrected in later on. If you see a page number with a letter (e.g. 932a), then
this is certain to be a correction entry.
When searching for births, it's possible that the parents had not decided on a name for the child when
the birth was registered, so you should also look for the entries [male] and [female]
which appear at the end of the entries for each surname.
FreeBMD - A volunteer effort to
transcribe the Civil Registration indices. The site is free to use and the coverage for 1837-1915 is now