The St. Catherine's Marriage Index
The records of civil registration of post-1837 births, marriages and deaths in England and Wales that are held by the General Register Office (St Catherine's House) are not available to the public, though individual certificates can be purchased. What is available, including on microfiche or microfilm at many libraries, is a set of indexes to these records. The marriage indexes have separate entries for husbands and wives, and so it can be very difficult to identify the entries for a given marriage, and essentially impossible if only one spouse's name is known, from the indexes alone. Thus one is left with the considerable expense of having to commission the GRO to perform searches, or to purchase certificates that might well turn out to be irrelevant.
Mike Foster, of New Zealand, has been exploring improved ways of exploiting the information that is provided by the marriage indexes, by producing reorganized transcriptions of the some of the indexes. The result is what are in effect almost reconstitutions of the original records, which bring together the names of each of the spouses of each of the up to four marriages that were recorded on a single page.
The resulting files, which with Mike Foster's permission are made available here, can be searched using your browser's "Find" command, in order to attempt to find a particular named individual, and a small group of possible marriage partners of this individual.
The files, like the original GRO record volumes, but unlike the indexes, each cover a separate area of England and Wales. Though already very extensive, especially for what is to date almost entirely the work of one transcriber, Mike Foster himself, they of course cover only a small fraction of the entire GRO indexes. However they have enabled much to be learned about the organization and accuracy of the GRO records and their indexes, as well as showing how tremendously valuable such a complete set of reorganized transcriptions would be to family historians and others.
Note: The files are also being made available (in zipped form) for download from the GENUKI-L archive.
Note: Since the above was written, in July 1999, Mike has published the very well-received book "A Comedy of Errors" on the GRO and its indexes, a second volume of which is about to appear - see his web-page (archived copy).
The following files have been produced by selectively extracting the entries relating to particular volumes from the St Catherine's House Marriage Index.
- Vol 2, East London, 1843/Q4 (58 kbytes)
- Vol 12, Essex & S Suffolk, 1839/Q4 (47 kbytes)
- Vol 12, Essex & S Suffolk, 1843/Q1 (23 kbytes)
- Vol 12, Essex & S Suffolk, 1843/Q2 (26 kbytes)
- Vol 12, Essex & S Suffolk, 1843/Q3 (28 kbytes)
- Vol 12, Essex & S Suffolk, 1843/Q4 (52 kbytes)
- Vol 12, Essex & S Suffolk, 1844/Q2 (28 kbytes)
- Vol 12, Essex & S Suffolk, 1844/Q3 (28 kbytes)
- Vol 12, Essex & S Suffolk, 1844/Q4 (51 kbytes)
- Entries for Islington for 1843/Q3 and Shoreditch for 1886/Q3 (13 kbytes)
These twenty-seven files have been produced from a complete transcription of the St Catherine's House Marriage Index covering the period Jan-March, 1849, and comprising some 58000 names.
- District 1 - London (179 kbytes)
- District 2 - London (198 kbytes)
- District 3 - London (128 kbytes)
- District 4 - Surrey, etc. (160 kbytes)
- District 5 - Kent, etc. (110 kbytes)
- District 6 - Bedfordshre/Berkshire/Hertfordshire (116 kbytes)
- District 7 - Hampshire/Sussex (123 kbytes)
- District 8 - Dorset/Wiltshire (102 kbytes)
- District 9 - Cornwall/Devon (144 kbytes)
- District 10 - Somerset/Devon (155 kbytes)
- District 11 - Gloucestershire, etc. (141 kbytes)
- District 12 - Essex/South Suffolk (93 kbytes)
- District 13 - Norfolk/North Suffolk (136 kbytes)
- District 14 - Cambridgeshire/Lincolnshire (122 kbytes)
- District 15 - Leicstershire/Nottinghamshire (176 kbytes)
- District 16 - Oxfordshire/Warwickshire (131 kbytes)
- District 17 - Staffordshire (105 kbytes)
- District 18 - Cheshire/Shropshire (136 kbytes)
- District 19 - Cheshire/Derbyshire (143 kbytes)
- District 20 - Lancashire (344 kbytes)
- District 21 - Lancashire (218 kbytes)
- District 22 - Yorkshire (218 kbytes)
- District 23 - Yorkshire (201 kbytes)
- District 24 - County Durham/Northumberland (144 kbytes)
- District 25 - Northumberland/Westmorland (115 kbytes)
- District 26 - Wales, Herefordshire, etc. (172 kbytes)
- District 27 - Wales (91 kbytes)
This table (27 kbytes) shows page ranges for BDM districts based on 1849/Q1 marriages - it can be very useful in deciphering poor fiches.
Mike Foster, now aided by several volunteers, is presently engaged in a yet more ambitious project, that of transcribing the marriage indexes for the entire year 1856. The General Registration Regions at this time were:
Volume 2 a - Surrey, Kent
Volume 2 b,c - Sussex, part of Hampshire
Volume 3 a - Middlesex, Hertfordshire, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire
Volume 3 b - Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Huntingdonshire, Northamptonshire
Volume 4 a - Essex, Suffolk
Volume 4 b - Norfolk
Volume 5 a - Wiltshire, Dorset
Volume 5 b - Devon
Volume 5 c - Cornwall, Scilly Isles, Somerset
Volume 6 a - Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Shropshire
Volume 6 b - Staffordshire, part of Warwickshire, part of Worcestershire
Volume 6 c - part of Warwickshire, part of Worcestershire
Volume 7 a - Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Rutland
Volume 7 b - Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire
Volume 8 a - Cheshire
Volume 8 b-e - Lancashire
Volume 10 a - County Durham
Volume 10 b - Cumberland, Northumberland, Westmorland
Volume 11 a - South Wales
Volume 11 b - North Wales
Sufficient progress has already been made on Q1 for the resulting "reconstitution" of the marriage registers to be of some use (some 18,000 names out of 69,000). Otherwise, the present files are still a small sample of the nearly 300000 entries for 1856. If there is sufficient by way of volunteer effort to build up these files, they will become a major research resource.
- Entries for Q1 - Volume 1 a,b,c,d (220 kbytes)
- Entries for Q1 - Volume 2 a,b,c (100 kbytes)
- Entries for Q1 - Volume 3 a,b (65 kbytes)
- Entries for Q1 - Volume 4 a,b (69 kbytes)
- Entries for Q1 - Volume 5 a,b,c (128 kbytes)
- Entries for Q1 - Volumes 6,7 (219 kbytes)
- Entries for Q1 - Volume 8 a,b,c,d,e (195 kbytes)
- Entries for Q1 - Volume 9 (129 kbytes)
- Entries for Q1 - Volume 10 a,b (72 kbytes)
- Entries for Q1 - Volume 11 a,b (78 kbytes)
- Entries for Q2 (47 kbytes)
- Entries for Q3 (32 kbtes)
- Entries for Q4 for Volumes 1 a,b,c,d (41 kbytes)
- Entries for Q4 except for Volume 1 (232 kbytes)
The following tables give indications of the volume and page layout of the marriage records for the four quarters of 1856. These files can be useful to anyone working with fiche/film of the marriage index and having difficulty in resolving poor entries. They will often show whether a particular interpretation is possible or impossible. (As they are only based at this stage on a sample of the entries, it is only possible to get a sketchy picture of the structure of the records in the case of Q2, Q3 and Q4. The files will be reissued periodically as the 1856 data are progressively captured.)
- Layout for Q1 (33 kbytes)
- Layout for Q2 (27 kbytes)
- Layout for Q3 (27 kbytes)
- Layout for Q4 (27 kbytes)
Here is a file of missing entries (216 kbytes) from the microfiche of the St Catherine's House marriage index for 1856, 1858 & 1861.