Church of England Parishes in Registration Districts -
How to Find a Marriage from its GRO Reference Number


It is possible to predict where a marriage took place in England and Wales from its GRO (Geeneral Register Office) reference number - I have used this technique extensively to avoid needing to buy GRO certificates and to locate the correct parish register quickly.

This page serves as an introduction to this subject and it provides an index to the registration districts which I have analysed.

Please note that the GENUKI / UKBMD registration district pages are not very helpful when searching for marriages because they list "civil" parishes rather than "church" parishes. For example, by 1930 there were 22 Church of England parishes in Ipswich registration district.


How Marriages are Organised in the GRO Index (1837-1939)

The rules are - in each registration district for that quarter's marriages:

  1. All of the Church of England marriages are listed first, and then the marriages at the non-Church of England venues and the district's Register Office are listed.
  2. Church of England churches are listed in alphabetical order* with each different church starting on an odd-numbered page.
  3. If there are no marriages at a venue then it is simply ignored.
  4. After the last Church of England church, everything else is listed in alphabetical order. Since very few non-Church of England marriage registers are available in Record Offices or online, this means that it is necessary to buy a copy of the certificate. For Register Offices it is, of course, necessary to buy the certificate.
  5. The marriages at a venue are in date order, so a marriage on the 1st. October will have a page number less than or equal to a marriage on the 31st. December.
  6. The term "alphabetical order" varies slightly by registration district, but there are some generally followed rules:
  7. In most cases it is simple to get the list of marriages which occurred in a particular quarter in a registration district - simply leave the name fields blank on the FreeBMD site, but set the registration district and date fields precisely.
  8. If you are really lucky, the website will give you the answer.


There are 2 problems that can arise:

  1. The marriage registers are still at the relevant church (e.g. West Ham, St. Matthew for 1897 onwards, or High Laver, All Saints for 1838 onwards) or were destroyed.
  2. Occasionally a registration district is very busy, so FreeBMD refuses to list all of the marriages in a quarter (e.g. West Ham district), so you have to work round the problem by looking at a marriage register and then getting the GRO reference number from FreeBMD to see which way you have to go in the list of churches.


Registration Districts Analysed