FreeBMD is a project to make the civil registration indexes for England and Wales available online at no charge. Civil Registration of births, marriages, and deaths started in 1837 in England and Wales. While the indexes are available on sites like Ancestry.com and FindMyPast.com as part of their subscription service, FreeBMD makes them available at no charge. The records themselves are not available online anywhere, but can be ordered from the General Record Office.
The FreeBMD project uses volunteers all over the world to transcribe the indexes. It was created under permission of the Office for National Statistics. The data is subject to Crown Copyright and cannot be used by any commercial organization.
The search page is fairly straightforward. You can search for only one record type (birth, marriage, or death) at a time. After selecting the type, enter the last name and first name of the person. Starting in the third quarter of 1911 the mother’s surname is included on birth records. In 1912, the spouse’s name was added to marriage records. Age at death was recorded from 1866 to 1969. After that, the date of birth was recorded on death records.
Counties were subdivided into registration districts starting in 1837. As districts grew more populous, the districts themselves were subdivided to create new districts. You can include the district if you know it, or just leave the search as “All Districts.” The same is true for adding the counties to the search. Other filters are available, including exact matches only for first names, phonetic searches for surnames, etc.
The indexes were created each quarter (March, June, September, and December). You set the search date parameters by the quarter and year. If you have a volume and page number reference you can search directly for that as well.
Search results are separated by quarter, chronologically. It will provide the quarter, the registration districut, the volume, and the page number. If you are looking for a marriage prior to 1912, click on the page number link. This will show you the names for each record on that page. Since most early books had only two marriages on a page, if you know the first name of the spouse, you might be able to determine if either is the correct record.
If you have ancestors in England or Wales, try FreeBMD to find their records. The site provides information on how you can easily order copies of the records online once you find them in the index.