Guide to BMD Certificates in England & Wales

For your convenience we present the three current official Guides to Birth, Marriage, and Death certificates.

Parish registers, and certificates recording births, marriages, and deaths, were formally introduced in England on 5 September 1538 following the split with Rome, when Thomas Cromwell, minister to Henry VIII, issued an injunction requiring the registers of baptisms, marriages and burials to be kept.

In 1597, both Queen and Convocation reaffirmed the injunction, adding that the registers were of ‘permagnus usus’ – of the greatest usefulness – and must be kept in ‘books of parchment leaves.’ Previous records (most found in a less durable form) had to be copied into the new books and copies of each year’s entries had to be sent to the bishop’s registrar. The parish clerk was paid to copy the old records into a new parchment book to keep the record up to date.

During the English Civil War (1643–1647) and in the following Commonwealth period, records were poorly kept, and many are now missing after being destroyed (bored by beetles, chewed by rats or rendered illegible by damp) or hidden by the clergy. This parsimony and neglect was remedied by depositing the registers in county record offices where they were safeguarded and made accessible.[6] On the other hand, the accurate parish registers of New France were rarely damaged by external events such as war, revolution, and fire. Thus, 300,00 entries were available for the years from 1621 to 1760.

In 1812 in England, an “Act for the better regulating and preserving Parish and other Registers of Birth, Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, in England” was passed It stated that “amending the Manner and Form of keeping and of preserving Registers of Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials of His Majesty’s Subjects in the several Parishes and Places in England, will greatly facilitate the Proof of Pedigrees of Persons claiming to be entitled to Real or Personal Estates, and otherwise of great public Benefit and Advantage”. Separate printed registers were to be supplied by the King’s Printer, and used for baptisms, marriages and burials.