English Civil Registration Tools – FreeBMD, England Jurisdictions 1851, and A Vision of Britain

This week’s post in the 50 Marriage Mondays series is another case of verifying what a relative told me some years ago.

Bride: Ivy Rose Proctor
Groom: Albert Palmer
Date: 21 October 1944
Location: unknown


FreeBMD, which stands for Free Birth, Marriages and Deaths, provides an online searchable version of the General Register Office (GRO) Index of Civil Registration in England and Wales from 1837 to 1983.  The ongoing project is run by volunteers and has now substantially completed  transcription of the marriage index up to 1950.

The search page provides a number of search parameters, but for this example I entered the couple’s names and a data range from 1930 to 1950.

FreeBMD search page

FreeBMD search page

Strangely, my first search, where I entered the bride and groom the other way round, yielded no results.  My second search gave one result.

FreeBMD result page

FreeBMD result page

It is always worth tweaking search terms and trying again as mistyping search terms and index errors can cause a search to fail.  In this case it turns out that in the entry for Albert Palmer, the spouse’s surname was transcribed as Procter because it is not clear on the original.

The colour coding tells me that the registration quarter October-December 1944 has been fully transcribed, so this is the only possible match and is consistent with the information I already had.  However, where is the Gipping registration district?  Clicking on the link helpfully takes me to the information that Gipping registration district existed between 1935 -1974 and was comprised of the following parishes that were formerly part of Bosmere and Stow registration districts:

Akenham, Ashbocking, Ashfield, Badley, Barham, Barking, Battisford, Baylham, Bramford, Claydon, Coddenham, Creeting St. Mary, Crowfield, Debenham, Earl Stonham, Flowton, Framsden, Gosbeck, Great Blakenham, Great Bricett, Helmingham, Hemingstone, Henley, Little Blakenham, Little Stonham, Mickfield, Needham Market, Nettlestead, Offton, Pettaugh, Ringshall, Somersham, Stonham Aspall, Whitton, Willisham, and Winston.

Buxhall, Combs, Creeting St. Peter, Gipping, Great Finborough, Harleston, Haughley, Little Finborough, Old Newton with Dagworth, Onehouse, Shelland, Stowmarket, Stowupland, and Wetherden.

Ivy Proctor’s birthplace, Hitcham, is not in this list.  How far is Hitcham from Gipping district?  A map is the ideal tool to visualise relative locations.

England Jurisdictions 1851 and A Vision of Britain

Both these websites use Geographical Information Systems (GIS) technology to present maps of administrative units that existed in the past.  FamilySearch’s England Jurisdictions 1851 is the more user-friendly implementation, but is limited by its focus on a particular time.  A Vision of Britain is much more comprehensive and includes the history of a wide range of administrative units.  As a product of a major academic project undertaken in the 1990s, the Great Britain Historical GIS, the website implementation is showing the age of its origin.  The links to the boundary maps, and history of administrative units (important and useful to the genealogist) are not prominent. The boundary maps respond slowly, lack interactivity and support for pointing devices, and display only one administrative unit.  Despite these limitations, it remains an invaluable tool.

Gipping district comparison

Comparison between ‘A Vision of Britain’ boundary map for Gipping district (above) and ‘England Jurisdictions 1851’ for the same area (below)

From England Jurisdictions 1851 we can see that Hitcham lies in Cosford district which adjoined Bosmere and Stow.  From A Vision of Britain, we can see which parts of Bosmere and Stow became Gipping district.

Knowing the administrative unit that handled the marriage registration gives us clues about where relevant records may now be held.  I could simply order the marriage certificate from the GRO as a way of accessing the copy register submitted to the Registrar General.  However, the two original registers are at:

  • the Ipswich branch of Suffolk Record Office because Gipping district lies in East Suffolk
  • the Stowmarket Registration Office

Which Church? – Church and State Jurisdictions

Two documents, a marriage certificate and photograph have been passed down to the children of the couple featured in this the third in the 50 Marriage Mondays series.

Bride: Eva Nancy Wilson

Groom: Frederick Samuel Round

Date: 19 September 1940

Location: “The Parish Church”, Handsworth, Stafford

Type: established church after Banns

Marriage Certificate - Frederick Samuel Round & Eva Nancy Wilson

Marriage Certificate – Frederick Samuel Round & Eva Nancy Wilson

A first glance, the marriage certificate appears unremarkable, but three things need further investigation:

  1. The Registration District has been left blank
  2. The location is recorded as “The Parish Church”, Handsworth.  As there were several parishes in Handsworth, which church does this mean?
  3. The Marriage Acts 1811-1934 are quoted.  Why not the later Marriage Act of 1939?

Registration district

A search on the FreeBMD [link] index for this marriage (Vol 6d, page 635) suggests that the registration district was Birmingham.  Registration districts, introduced from 1837, were initially based on the Poor Law Unions, but often modified later to reflect re-organisations of local government. A Vision of Britain contains comprehensive data on jurisdictional changes, and Genuki has helpful summaries .  In 1940, Handsworth civil parish was part of Birmingham Registration district.


The most likely candidate for the parish church in Handsworth is St Mary, an ancient church and parish.  Other ecclesiastical parishes established in Handsworth were St James (1854), St Michael (1861), St Peter (1907) and St Andrew (1914).  A couple more current churches are listed on The Church of England (the established church).

Wedding photograph - Frederich Samuel Round & Eva Nancy Wilson

Wedding photograph – Frederick Samuel Round & Eva Nancy Wilson

The stone built church depicted in the wedding photograph features crenulations.   Using Google Map’s streetview I found that St Marys is the only one that matches.

Marriage Acts

The Marriage Act 1939 was concerned with marriages where one party who resided in Scotland and the other in England.  So, it may not have applied to this particular marriage.  I do not know if a new form of certificate was produced as a consequence of the legislation, but I speculate that in 1940, World War II took precedence over printing new legal stationary.

With special thanks to Paul and Pat Round for sharing the certificate and photo.