Death Records 1837-1983

These will give you a summary of deaths from the beginning of Civil Registration in 1837 to 1983 - which is the most current year.

When a death is registered a certificate is filled out and given to the person who reported it. The registration information is kept on file and added to the summary register, or Index, of all the events. As in books, the Index won't tell you everything, but will give you key information, such as names, dates (specifically quarters) as well as a reference where you can discover more - in this case, a death certificate.

What can the Death Indexes tell me?

You can get so much from a single line of text. First, there's the excitement of finally tracking down your ancestor. You can discover basic details about them, as well as attach the official record to their entry in your family tree.

You can discover their age at the time of death (but remember, this may not be 100% accurate, as the person who gives that information may not be a close relative). You can also find out where the death was registered (this may not necessarily be where your ancestor was living at the time - as people can die at any time, in any place).

Sample records: [+] Click to magnify


A brief history of the Death Indexes

The formal registration of deaths in England and Wales began on 1st July 1837 with the introduction of Civil Registration. Before this, each individual parish was responsible for maintaining their own Parish register - so for events before 1837, check our Parish Records.

While Civil Registration was meant to bring all deaths together in one place, it's important to know that registration was only made compulsory by law in 1875. So if you can't find your pre-1875 ancestors here, this could be why.

Search our Death Index collection

There are different Death Index collections to search, depending on what period in history you're searching. Using the right collection will help you get a better search result.


If you're looking for deaths between 1837 and 1915 search the FreeBMD collections. There is also a separate collection for deaths between 1984 and 2005. These collections provide individual matches when you search. For deaths between 1916 and 1983, however, your search will take you to an individual Index page, where you can then search for your ancestor's details. For any deaths before 1837, you should be searching through the Parish Registers, which you can find in our Parish Records collection.

What's my next step?

To help you go further back in your family history, you can order a death certificate direct from us. This will give you additional vital information - including full name of deceased, date and place of death, cause of death, name and details of the person who reported the death - and much more

Which famous people could I meet?

Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Died 15 September 1859. One of Great Britain's most famous engineers, Brunel is best known for creating the Great Western Railway, designing a series of famous steamships and numerous important bridges and tunnels. He is perhaps best remembered for the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol.

Vivien Leigh. Died 7 July 1967. An iconic English actress, Leigh won two Best Actress Awards for her roles as Scarlett O'Hara in "Gone with the Wind" and Blanche DuBois in "A Streetcar Named Desire". Married for a time to Laurence Olivier, she was also an acclaimed stage actress.

JRR Tolkien. Died 2 September 1973. English writer, poet and Oxford don, Tolkien is best known for his Middle Earth oeuvre - including "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit". During his time at Oxford, he became close friends with CS Lewis, the author of the Chronicles of Narnia.

I'm new to all this. What do I do first?

Start building your family tree

First include all the information you already know about yourself and your immediate family. To help you every step of the way, we automatically search through our records for potential matches - and give you results in seconds.

Search and attach records

There are billions of records worldwide - but searching for ancestors isn't like looking for a needle in a haystack. We'll help you search quickly and accurately. And you can attach your records to your family tree to help bring it to life.

Connect, share and grow

The Ancestry Community now has nearly 3 million members worldwide. Member Connect will help you contact other members who are researching your ancestors, share research and be notified when they add new content about your ancestors to their family trees.

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