Tag Archives: Heritage Research Area

Heritage Research Area Familiarisation Session

Would you like to learn how the Heritage Research Area on level 4 could benefit your genealogical research?

Meet experienced staff at this free event which will act as a general beginners’ guide to resources such as maps, electoral and parish registers as well as digital resources on Ancestry Institution and software for reading local newspapers.

Spaces are limited to 12 people per session. Please email archives.heritage@birmingham.gov.uk or speak with a representative of staff on level 4 to place a reservation.

Wednesday 28 June 2017

11 am – 1 pm

Please note this session is not aimed at answering specific genealogical enquiries.

Our Heritage Research Familiarisation Session is now fully booked. If you haven’t managed to book on the session this time, we are planning to offer another one on a Saturday in September, date yet to be confirmed. Please check out the blog, the Lob website and twitter as well as posters located in the library nearer the time for confirmation of the date. 


Deciphering Cryptography for Family Historians

Marriage indexes

Birmingham marriage page range tables

Do you often get puzzled, nay perplexed by family history research? If only it were as simple as when shown on the television and wouldn’t we all love a PA answering to our every whim for warming lattes and restorative brioche butties. You agonise, you fret, you convulse over whether great aunt June wasn’t really a member of the KGB because you can’t find any reference to her breathing on the GRO (General Register Office) index and what do all of these esoteric codes and hieroglyphics relating to a marriage in eighteen o’ dreadful actually mean. Well, discombobulate no longer, people of the genealogical fraternity because assistance is at hand, propulsive yet sophisticated like Bond himself in a vintage Aston Martin DB5.

Let me introduce you to the wonders of the GRO Birmingham Marriage page range tables complied by P.L. Loach with assistance from David Fall where credited –

  •  Marriages registered in the Aston Registration District,1837 – 1924.
  • Marriages registered in the Birmingham Registration District, 1837 – 1924.
  • Marriages registered in the Birmingham North Registration District, 1924 – 1932.
  • Marriages registered in the Birmingham South Registration District, 1924 – 1932.
  • Marriages registered in the Kings Norton Registration District, 1837 – 1924.
  • Marriages registered in the West Bromwich Registration District, 1837 – 1932 (includes some north west Birmingham suburbs).

Once you have located the entry for the marriage you seek via the GRO index (which is accessible to view free of charge in Archives & Collections Service via Ancestry) and as long as the event occurred in the period covered by the marriage page range tables as outlined above, you should in theory be able to highlight which church the service took place at, although there are some noticeable exceptions which are identified when inspecting the tables. The tables are primarily arranged in yearly order and then by quarter –  March, June, September and December. The final part of the puzzle you require is the page number from the GRO citation found on Ancestry and all being well, the magical algorithms of the page tables will calculate their way to a revelation of which church the service took place in. You are then at liberty to explore other related resources held in our collections which may lead you to a copy of the parish entry for the marriage.

Quick ReferenceThe page range tables are available to view in the Heritage Research Area’s  Quick Reference section located on Level 4 of the Library of Birmingham at any point during the course of our full service hours of 11 am  – 7 pm Monday & Tuesday and 11 am  – 5 pm Wednesday to Saturday.


Happy espionage every one!

Paul Taylor
Archives & Collections Coordinator


The following items have been added to the various bookstock collections housed in Archives & Collections  –

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Back to Basics: The GRO

We have showcased many weird and wonderful collections on The Iron Room since we started, but it occurred to us that some of our most commonly used sources have never received a mention. We thought we should do something about this, and wanted to offer some occasional articles focussing on the sources we take for granted but that our researchers may like to know a little more about how to access, particularly following our move.

Once such source that is very heavily used in our department is the General Register Office Index. Commonly referred to as the GRO Index, you may also hear it referred to as the St. Catherine’s House Index. This is the index to births, marriages and deaths that have been registered since the introduction of Civil Registration on 1st July 1837.

Microfiche copies of the General Register Office Index to births

Microfiche copies of the General Register Office Index to births

Prior to July 1837, the only records that recorded life events were church registers. These were records made by individual parishes of the baptisms, marriages and burials that they performed. (Distinct from births, marriages and deaths.) Until the introduction of online sites that indexed parish records, a search for a marriage, for example, could often mean looking through records of many different parishes before locating the record. Assuming you knew which parish to start with! Parish records generally start in the 17th century, although some do date back to the 16th century or earlier. They continue to this day and run in parallel with Civil Registrations.

Back to the GRO….. A birth, marriage or death is registered at the local Register Office and a certificate issued. Periodically, copies of the certificates are sent to the GRO which they keep and then use to compile the GRO indexes.

The GRO indexes are arranged alphabetically by quarter up until 1983 – events registered January to March will be listed A-Z by surname, followed by April – June quarter A-Z by surname, July – September and finally October – December. The index will give you the name, registration district and a volume and page number. (Depending on the date, you may find mother’s maiden name recorded on birth indexes and spouse’s surname on marriage indexes.) From 1984 onwards the indexes are arranged annually.

You cannot view copies of the certificates themselves, only the indexes, as the certificates have to be purchased either through the local Register Office, if this service is available as it is through Birmingham Register Office for local registrations, or through the General Register Office. Either way, you need to make a note of the details from the index as you will need this when ordering a certificate.

Our new digital film readers, available in AH&P

Our new digital film readers, available in AH&P

As a regional centre for the General Register Office indexes, Archives, Heritage and Photography provide access to the indexes both electronically through our subscription to Ancestry, and in the original microfiche format. With our new digital microform readers in our Heritage Research Area which are linked to computers, researchers can now look at microfiche and Ancestry on the same terminal. From about 2005 onwards, the indexes are only accessible on microfiche. Being a regional centre also means we provide access to additional indexes issued by the GRO such as the overseas indexes.

Booking is not essential, however be prepared to wait if you catch us at our busiest periods, usually from 11am until late afternoon. If you would like to book in advance, please contact us on 0121 2424 242 and ask for the Heritage Research Area. Please also bring your library card or ID with you so that you can access the computers.