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:
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
Church of England churches are listed in alphabetical order* with each
different church starting on an odd-numbered page.
If there are no marriages at a venue then it is simply ignored.
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.
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.
The term "alphabetical order" varies slightly by registration district,
but there are some generally followed rules:
Great Bardfield and Little Barfield will be filed under "B".
If there are multiple churches for a place, they are usually in alphabetical
order of the name so West Ham, All Saints will appear before West Ham, St. Matthew.
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.
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.
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.