General Registry Office overseas records
These overseas records provide details of births, marriages and deaths of British citizens that have taken place abroad since the late 18th century. The records are made up of three main types - consular records, army records and other records - and include the following data ranging from as far back as 1761 and up to 1994.
Consular, army and other records
If you have a relative or ancestor who was born, married or died overseas, but was still classed as a British citizen at the time of the event, then it is quite possible that the British Consul or the UK High Commission in the relevant jurisdiction would have been notified of the event, allowing you to find their record within the GRO's Consular indices. There are some caveats to this though:
- Whilst most births, deaths and marriages were registered with the British Consul or the UK High Commission, the overseas records are somewhat incomplete, as registration is not compulsory for British nationals abroad.
- If the person you are tracing was born, married or died in a Commonwealth country, you should also note that only events which took place after the country's independence (e.g. Jamaica from 1965, Seychelles from 1976) are included in the records.
- Where the country still has a strong link to Britain, there is "no provision" (NP) for separate registration. NP territories include Australia, Canada, Falklands, Gibraltar, New Zealand and various islands in the British West Indies (including Bermuda). In other words, it would be expected that a birth, marriage or death of a British national in a NP country would be registered within the domestic civil registration system of the country concerned and not separately at the Consulate or High Commission – therefore they would not appear in the GRO's overseas indexes.
Note: Up to 1965, Consular and High Commission records were in separate lists to the Army births, marriages and deaths. However, from 1966 all the Consular, High Commission and Army birth, marriage and death records were merged into one single indexed sequence simply called 'Abroad'.
The Army records include the registrations of British armed forces (including serving members who were not British nationals) posted overseas.
The historic records include:
- Chaplains to the Forces – births, marriages and deaths before 1880
- Regimental registers – births before 1924
- Boer War deaths – 1899 to 1902
- WW1 deaths – Army Other (including RAF). Army Officers, Naval
- WW2 deaths – Army Other, Army Officers, Naval Ratings (ordinary sailors), Naval Officers and RAF
- Indian States births and deaths
Note: Up to 1965, Army records were in separate lists to the Consular and High Commission births, marriages and deaths. However, from 1966 all the Consular, High Commission and Army birth, marriage and death records were merged into one single indexed sequence, simply called 'Abroad'.
These records include births and deaths (no marriages) for:
- Civil aircraft
- Hovercraft deaths
- Offshore installation deaths
War deaths - WW1, WW2 and the Boer War
If you are searching for a relative who died in active service during World War 1, World War 2 or the Boer War you may be able to find a record of their death in the following sets of records:
- GRO Natal and South African Forces Deaths 1899 to 1902
- GRO War Deaths Army Officers Indices 1914 to 1921
- GRO War Deaths Army Other Ranks Indices 1914 to 1921
- GRO War Deaths Navy all Ranks Indices 1914 to 1921
- GRO War Deaths Army Officers Indices 1939 to 1948
- GRO War Deaths Army Other Ranks 1939 to 1948
- GRO War Deaths Naval Officers Indices 1939 to 1948
- GRO Naval Ratings Indices 1939 to 1948
- GRO War Deaths RAF all Ranks 1939 to 1948
- GRO War Deaths Indian Services 1939 to 1948
Some of these records include details of people who served within the British forces, even though they were not British nationals.
Consular and high commission returns
The Annual Consular and UK High Commission returns date from 1849 up to 1994. If your ancestors were born, married or died abroad you may find them in the following sets of records:
- GRO Consular Birth Indices 1849 to 1965
- GRO Births Abroad Indices 1966 to 1978
- GRO Births Abroad Indices 1979 to 1994
- GRO UK High Commission Birth Indices (pre 1956)
- GRO UK High Commission Birth Indices (up to 1981)
- GRO Consular Death Indices 1849 to 1965
- GRO High Commission Death Indices (up to 1955)
- GRO High Commission Death Indices 1956 to 1965
- GRO Deaths Abroad Indices 1966 to 1994
- GRO Consular Marriages 1849 to 1965
- GRO UK High Commission Marriages (up to 1960)
- GRO UK High Commission Marriages 1961 to 1965
- GRO Marriages Abroad 1966 to 1994
Please note the following:
- The consular returns are registrations made by the British Consul in a foreign country dating from 1849 to 1965.
- The UK High Commission returns are registrations made by the British High Commission in a Commonwealth country. These date from the date of independence of each country.
- In 1966 the returns from the Consulates, the High Commissions and the Forces were all amalgamated into one index per type of event, which is why the Consular and High Commission records only go up to 1965. Currently, the amalgamated event indexes date up to 1994.
Army returns & service department registrations
The Army Returns and Service Department Registrations relate to forces registrations from 1880 to 1965, known as 'Army' Births, Deaths and Marriages. From 1959 to present day the records are known as 'Forces' Births, Deaths and Marriages.
The term Service Department is a relatively modern term from the late 1950s, emanating from the Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages (Special Provisions) Act of 1957 and the Service Departments Register Order of 1959.
If you are looking for a relative who was married or died whilst serving in the forces from 1881 to 1965, search the following records:
- GRO Army Birth Indices 1881 to 1965
- GRO Army Death Indices 1881 to 1955
- GRO Index Army Marriages 1881 to 1955
- GRO Army Marriages within British Lines 1914 to 1925
- GRO Service Department Marriages 1956 to 1965
- GRO Service Department Death Indices 1956 to 1965
The Regimental Registers date from 1761 to 1924 and include British Regiments in the UK, Ireland and overseas. The records cover births/baptisms. If you are unable to find your ancestors in these records you should note that the Overseas department of the General Registry Office also holds additional records of regimental marriages taking place between 1761 and 1924 that have never been indexed. These additional records have never been indexed and are not available online.
- GRO Regimental Birth Indices 1761 to 1924
- GRO Regimental Birth Indices Supplement 1761 to 1924
The Chaplains' returns are a set of records that were compiled by chaplains to the forces covering births/baptisms, deaths and marriages from 1796 to 1880. As the Chaplains were working for the forces, you may find that some of these records are duplicated in the Regimental records.
- GRO Army Chaplains Birth Indices 1796 to 1880
- GRO Army Chaplains Death Indices 1796 to 1880
- GRO Chaplains Returns Marriages 1796 to 1880
Civil aviation authority births, deaths & missing persons
If your relative/ancestor was born or died in the air on a British registered aircraft, you should find their record listed in the following indices:
- GRO Air Births Indices 1947 to 1965
- GRO Air Deaths Missing Persons Indices 1947 to 1965
- GRO Air Deaths 1947 to 1965
The Civil Aviation Authority was required to register births and deaths on British-registered aircraft and send the details to the General Registry Office. In respect of deaths, initially the Civil Aviation (Births, Deaths and Missing Persons) Regulations of 1948 made provision not only for deaths, but also defined 'Missing Persons' ('persons with respect to whom there are reasonable grounds for believing that they have died in consequence of an accident to an aircraft registered in Great Britain and Northern Ireland').
The regulations came into effect on 1 October 1948. However the first entry was not made until 22 March 1949.
Nowadays, the General Registry Office is unlikely to receive any details about missing persons from the Civil Aviation Authority as it is very unlikely that an aircraft is not found after a death. Deaths due to aircraft crashes are today recorded as such.
Registry of shipping and seamen
The Registry of Shipping and Seamen records list the birth and death returns from 1837 to 1965. Marine records came into existence under the provisions of the 1836 Act and were continued to be made under subsequent legislation. Currently the registrations are made under the Merchant Shipping Act and subsequent regulations which state that if a child is born in a ship or a person dies in a ship, registered in the UK, the master of the ship will make a return to the Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen who will register the event. The Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen will then send a certified copy of the registration to the appropriate Registrar General.
Whilst the majority of these records will be about merchant seamen, many of the records also include details about passengers.
If you are searching for an ancestor who may have been born or died at sea, search the following records:
- GRO Marine Death Indices (informal certificates 1 to 41)
- GRO Marine Birth Indices 1837 to 1965
- GRO Marine Death Indices 1837 to 1845
- GRO Marine Death Indices 1846 to 1902
- GRO Marine Death Indices 1903 to 1965
- There are no marriage returns in these records.
- The GRO also holds records for people who have died on off-shore installations or hovercrafts.
If you are searching for an ancestor who died on a British-owned oil or gas rig (including a survival craft belonging to an offshore installation) or a hovercraft, please look within the GRO Marine records above. Alternatively if the event occurred from 1966 onwards, please look in the GRO Deaths Abroad Indices.
Article 7 marriages
Provision is made under Article 7(1) of the Foreign Marriage Order (commonly referred to as Article 7 Marriages) for certificates of marriages which have taken place in non-commonwealth countries (translations into English where appropriate) to be deposited with the Registrar General. This deposit is made via the British Consul in the country concerned.
Please note that this is not a registration made by the British authorities, but merely a way to enable British nationals to readily obtain further copies of their documents once they have returned to the UK. Nonetheless, the records are indexed in the normal Marriages Abroad Indexes and certified copies of certificates can still be ordered from the General Registry Office.
To look for your ancestor in these records please search the records titled:
- GRO Article 6/Article 18 Marriages (up to 1955)
- GRO Article 6/Article 18 Marriages 1956 to 1965
- GRO Marriages Abroad 1966 to 1994
List of countries for Article 7 marriages
Afghanistan, Algeria, American Samoa, Andorra, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Azerbidjan, Bahrain, Belarus, Belgium, Bolivia, Borneo, Bosnia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burma, Burundei, Central African Republic, Canary Islands, Cape Verde Islands, Celebes, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Conakry, Congo, Corsica, Costa Rica, Crete, Croatia, Cuba, Curacao, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Fernando Poo, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Guinea & Bissau, Haiti, Hawaii, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Ivory Coast, Japan, Jerusalem, Jordan, Kalimantan, Kampuchea, Kazakhstan, Korea, Kuwait, Kyrgystan, Laos, Latvia, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macao, Macedonia, Malagasy Republic, Maldives, Mali, Martinique, Mauritania, Mexico, Moldova, Monaco, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Nepal, Netherlands, New Caledonia, Nicaragua, Niger, Norway, Oman, Palestine, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Portugese Timor, Puerto Rico, Qatar, Reunion (Paris), Rhodes, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, S.W. Africa, San Marino, Sardinia, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Somali, Spain, St. Pierre & Miq, Sudan, Sumatra, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Tadzhikistan, Tahiti, Thailand, Timor, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Upper Volta, Uruguay, USA, Uzbekistan, Vatican City, Venezuela, Vietnam North, Virgin Islands (USA), Yemen Arab Republic, Yemen Democratic Republic, Zaire
Ionian islands births, marriages & deaths
Between 1815 and 1864 the seven Greek Ionian Islands were under British protection after a short period of rule by France. During this time Britain controlled the police, the forts and military administration as well as all foreign relations. Spurred on by the French revolution of 1848, however, the residents on Cephalonia began to revolt against the British rule and demanded that their Islands be returned to Greece. Whilst this was vigorously repressed by the British in 1849, it became clear each year that the issue would not go away. Finally, William Gladstone was sent to the Ionian Islands to monitor the extent of the anti-British feeling and he recommended that the islands be given back to Greece. Once King Otto, the King of Greece, was disposed in 1862, and King George I ascended the throne in Athens, it was agreed that the islands could be united with the Kingdom of Greece, and between 21 May and 2 June 1864 the islands were surrendered.
The seven Ionian Islands are: Corfu (sometimes known as Kerkyra, Corcyra); Paxos; Leucadia (or Santa Maura); Ithaca (or Thiaki); Cephalonia; Zante (or Zacynthus); and Cerigo (or Cythera)
If you are trying to trace British civilian or military ancestors who were based on the Ionian Islands, you may find their birth, baptism, marriage or burial records within the following indexes. Please note that whilst the records end in 1864 when the British left the islands, they do not start until 1818, which was three years after the British took control.
- GRO Ionian Islands Chaplains' Returns Births 1818 to 1864
- GRO Ionian Islands Military Registration Births 1818 to 1864
- GRO Ionian Islands Civil Registration Births 1818 to 1864
- GRO Ionian Islands Chaplains' Returns Deaths 1818 to 1864
- GRO Ionian Islands Military Registration Deaths 1818 to 1864
- GRO Ionian Islands Civil Registration Deaths 1818 to 1864
- GRO Ionian Islands Chaplains' Returns Marriages 1818 to 1864
- GRO Ionian Islands Military Registration Marriages 1818 to 1864
- GRO Ionian Islands Civil Registration Marriages 1818 to 1864
Data included on overseas certificates
Certificates vary greatly for overseas records due to the variety of countries reporting registrations.
You should be aware that certificates relating to overseas records will not always be as detailed as certificates relating to events of births, marriages and deaths that occurred in the UK.
Births certificates for overseas records normally contain the following information:
- The child's name
- Date and place of birth
- The parents' names and surnames
Death certificates for overseas records normally contain the following information:
- Name and surname of the deceased
- Date and place of death (just the country in the case of war deaths)
- Date of birth or age at death
Marriage certificates for overseas records normally contain the following information:
- Names and surnames of the bride and groom
- If the ceremony took place in a British Consul or was registered by the British Forces
- Date and place of marriage
If the details were deposited in the UK, the documentation takes the form of a certified copy of the original document plus a translation if applicable.
Because registration with either the British registering authorities or the armed forces Service Departments is not compulsory, the General Registry Office does not receive automatic notification of every birth, marriage or death that happens or has happened.
GRO Index Period Entries AIR BIRTHS INDICES 1947 to 1965 0 ARMY BIRTH INDICES 1881 to 1965 1 ARMY CHAPLAINS BIRTH INDICES 1796 to 1880 0 BIRTHS ABROAD INDICES 1966 to 1994 9 CONSULAR BIRTH INDICES 1849 to 1965 2 IONIAN ISLANDS CHAPLAINS RETURNS BIRTHS 1818 to 1864 0 IONIAN ISLANDS CIVIL REGISTRATION BIRTHS 1818 to 1864 0 IONIAN ISLANDS MILITARY REGISTRATION BIRTHS 1818 to 1864 0 MARINE BIRTHS INDICES 1837 to 1965 0 MARINE BIRTHS INDICES (INFORMAL CERTS 1 to 41) 1837 to 1965 0 REGIMENTAL BIRTH INDICES 1761 to 1924 6 U.K.H.C. BIRTH INDICES 1940 to 1981 0
ARMY BIRTH INDICES (1881 to 1965) 1961 to 1965 Station Year Page Ramsdale, Gillian M Malta 1964 (50) (90)
BIRTHS ABROAD INDICES (1966 to 1978) 1966 to 1966 Mother's maiden name Registration Post Volume Page Ramsdale, Susan Angela Howard Gibraltar P1763 11 June BIRTHS ABROAD INDICES (1966 to 1978) 1970 to 1970 Ramsdale, Nicola Richardson Johannesburgh C2904 1969 Ramsdale, Rolf Jochin Jahn Hamburg C1205 1947 BIRTHS ABROAD INDICES (1966 to 1978) 1972 to 1972 Ramsdale, James Lee Rushton Dusseldorf C0747 12 February Ramsdale, James Lee Rushton B.A.O.R. F0340 12 February BIRTHS ABROAD INDICES (1979 to 1994) 1981 to 1981 Ramsdale, Wayne Paul Ogden Los Angeles C4416 1980 BIRTHS ABROAD INDICES (1979 to 1994) 1983 to 1983 Ramsdale, Claire Louise Jackson Hanover C/HC 1882 25 August BIRTHS ABROAD INDICES (1979 to 1994) 1986 to 1986 Ramsdale, Michelle Anne Jackson B.A.O.R. F1433 BIRTHS ABROAD INDICES (1979 to 1994) 1992 to 1992 Ramsdale, Rachel Jane Undrill B.A.O.R. F1312 23 June
CONSULAR BIRTH INDICES (1849 to 1965) 1946 to 1950 Consulate Vol Page Ramsdale, Malcolm B. Benghazi 44 421
CONSULAR BIRTH INDICES (1849 to 1965) 1946 to 1950 Mother's maiden name Consulate Vol Page Ramsdale, Rolf Tochim Jahn Hamburg 64 1285
REGIMENTAL BIRTH INDICES (1761 to 1924) 1761 to 1924 Place Year Regiment Vol Page Ramsdale, Elizabeth M Fothard 1907 R.A. 339 123 Ramsdale, Margaret Fermoy 1843 R.A. 17 141 Ramsdale, Robert H Waterford 1905 R.A. 507 7 Ramsdale, Robert H Waterford 1905 R.A. 339 123 REGIMENTAL BIRTH INDICES SUPPLEMENT (1761 to 1924) 1761 to 1924 Ramsdale, Margaret Fermoy 1843 R.A. 26 11