Researching your family history

Tracing family history can be rewarding but can be complicated

The Leicestershire Register Office receives enquiries from all over the world and whilst we cannot always provide the answers, it is our aim to help you as much as possible.

At the Leicestershire Register Office, we hold original deposited registers for births, deaths and marriages that have taken place in the County since 1 July 1837 when civil registration began.

Over the years, there have been numerous boundary changes resulting in the records for some locations being held at this office.

Starting your search

Where to begin

The first step is to gather all the information you can from relatives such as:

  • names
  • dates
  • addresses

Look at documents such as:

  • Wills
  • family bibles
  • newspaper cuttings
  • any birth, death or marriage certificates already held

Draw up a basic family tree to give you an idea of the gaps that you will need to fill. Then work backwards using information known already about relatives. Census records are very useful in finding out the names of other family members.

If, for example, you know your grandmother’s date and place and birth, apply for her birth certificate and this will give you her parent’s full names including her mother’s maiden surname. Your next step would then be to search for her parent’s marriage certificate which you should find through searching the family records indexes. These indexes are available to search on various websites, some free of charge.

Where to get help tracing family history

Registration staff at Leicestershire will be more than willing to help you as much as possible and there are many groups and organisations specialising in family history or genealogy that should be able to help. You could try searching on the internet, or visit your local library and there are many books written on the subject.

How far the Register Office’s records go back

Civil registration of births, deaths and marriages started on 1 July 1837 and so our records go back to then (please note, we only hold records for the Leicestershire area). Before July 1837, the Churches recorded baptisms, burials and marriage banns, some of which are held at the Leicestershire and Rutland Record Office in Wigston.

What information is needed to obtain an old birth, death or marriage certificate

We will need to know the name, year and the registration district and any other information you may have.

How to use the index search facility

Put in a surname (a mandatory field), leave out the forename, choose a year range which includes the date you suspect may be correct, click all sub-districts and see what results are produced. If there are too many results and you are unsure of the correct one, refine your search by choosing a sub-district and a forename.

You can use the near and quick search options which will offer more random results. Try using the online Records Search form

If no results are shown, you can complete the Manual certificate application form providing us with all the information you have.

What to do if the entry you are looking for hasn’t been transcribed yet

If you are unable to supply precise information, then it may take longer for us to locate the entry to which you are referring. In some cases we may not be able to determine the actual entry.

If you are uncertain of the date of an event we will search for a five-year period (2 years either side of your suggested date (e.g. you suggest 1885, we will search 1883 to 1887) but unfortunately, we do not have the resources for extensive searches of the indexes.

Why the reference numbers are different from the national marriage indexes

The national indexes of marriages in England and Wales list all persons married in each quarter year from 1837 and are now kept and accessed online at the General Register Office. They show the name of the bride or groom, the surname of the spouse (from 1912 only), the name of the registration district (as it existed at the time of the marriage), and a volume and page number which is unique to the General Register Office (GRO).

Every three months since July 1837, local registrars and Church of England ministers have been required to send copies of their marriage register entries to the GRO. For various reasons, sometimes marriages were missed, or details were copied incorrectly from the register; this can usually explain differences between certificates ordered by the GRO and those obtained from local register offices. Generally speaking, registers and indexes held by the local offices are less prone to error, and should therefore be more accurate than those at the GRO.