Don't place too much reliance on ONS! #general

Harry Dodsworth <af877@...>

I think Naidia Woolf is being unkind is criticising GRO for not
finding her relatives when she gave them the wrong names/dates :-)
There are errors in the GRO records. The indexes were prepared
from data submitted by district registrars and certainly there are
omissions and transcription errors. There is actually a book written
about them, Comedy of Errors? but presently out of print.
The 1881 transcription of the census of mainland Britain is a
valuable tool but has many errors. These may come >from the original
enumeration or subsequent transcriptions. Ages are notoriously

Her advice to do your own research is excellent. More fun to find
the ancestor and you are more likely to spot someone of the same
I find references in the GRO BMD indexes (St. Catherine's indexes)
and then order the certificates directly >from ONS in Southport.
This is more convenient if you are ordering certificates registered
in different offices although slightly more expensive. Also ONS take
credit cards and many local offices don't. Both ONS and local offices
are backlogged with requests for certificates for genealogy.
All local offices do not use the same procedures although the
centralized British system is much easier to use than the patchwork
US system.

Birmingham Reference Library is excellent; I had a day there two
weeks ago and found unexpected information on several lines in books
on the open shelves, and I have no family >from Birmingham!

Harry Dodsworth Ottawa Ontario Canada af877@...

Naidia Woolf <rnwoolf@...>

I've learned not to place too much reliance in The General Register Office
(in the UK) as the primary and most predictable source of vital records.
This is especially important if a researcher is not sure of his/her facts.
For example, on two separate occasions I had GRO conduct searches for my
maternal grandmother's death record; I also had them search for the birth
record of my paternal grandmother (who was born in England). In all
instances they came up empty-handed. In the case of my maternal g-m this
was because I wasn't sure of her first name or of date of death: I was off
by 2 years. (See below.) As for my paternal g-m, for some reason they were
unable to trace her birth record even though I furnished them with the info
as it appeared in the 1881 British census (now on CD).

As much as possible, do as much of the hands-on research yourself! Don't
rely too much on others! Also, pursue all possible avenues. An excellent
source of BMD records in the UK is the St. Catherine's Register, available
at main libraries. The last time I was in Birmingham I found an entry for
my parents' marriage record.
I also called the B'ham Register Office (see below) and subsequently
obtained a copy of the marriage record >from them.

For those of you with ancestral links to Birmingham --

To access the Birmingham City Council & all its departments incl. the
Register Office) go to . This site
gives general info about the registration services offered, plus the
address & phone numbers, & e-mail address.

To find out about ordering vital records, click on the following links:
__certificates__ (to view & print the forms you need); __information__
(useful info you'll need), and __fees.

Be sure to follow the instructions precisely, especially re payment. For
e.g. they ask you to write on your check "an amount not to exceed 20 pounds
sterling." (This should be written directly below the amount line on the
check.) Since I prefer to pay by credit card (no exchange rate problems!) I
always tell them to charge my credit card in the same fashion.

If you have any questions, you can e-mail them at:


Their mailing address is:

Registrar of Birth, Marriages, and Deaths
Register Office
300 Broad Street
Birmingham B1 2DE

The same requirements (& fees) probably apply to ordering vital records
from any register offices in the UK. -- but it's best to check.
I recently received a copy of my paternal g-m's birth cert. >from the
Register Office (which I'd had no success in obtaining >from GRO for some

There's a handy web site that lists all of the register offices by country
and by city (alphabetically) in England and Wales.

Other sources in the UK would be the individual synagogues & burial
society(ies) and the Federation of Synagogues in London. These are but two
of the many excellent sources available (for vital record info in the UK)--
too many to list here. (Check JewishGen's FAQ sheet.) I've found that
contacting the burial societies, etc. can help you if only by omission. For
e.g., I was able to determine that my maternal g-m was __not__ buried in
either Northampton or Preston (both cities where my grandparents lived for
some time).

Lastly, don't give up hope! Perseverance __can__ pay off! Two years ago I
asked my cousin in Birmingham if he knew when & where our grandmother died.
He said he "thought there was a copy of her burial notice somewhere in a
box." A few months ago (when I'd practically given up hope) he sent me a
copy of the burial notice (which he'd finally retrieved >from the "mystery"
box in his flat). This gave me all the data I needed to order her death
cert >from GRO: her name; age at time of death; date and place of burial
(incl. burial lot), and last place of residence (Hampstead, London).

from the burial notice I learned that my g-m was buried under the name of
Rachel ROSE (elsewhere her first name was given as Sarah; Rachel Sarah were
her two given names); that she had died in 1920 not 1918 -- wrong info
provided by well-meaning family member --and that she had been living (and
had subsequently died) in London. Since she died of TB it's possible she
was placed in a sanatorium in London. (There were several hospitals and
nursing homes in the part of London at the time she died.) Another avenue
for research!

Please reply privately unless you believe your comments to be of general

Naidia Woolf
San Francisco