Births or Deaths at Sea, in the Air etc

Deaths at sea occurred frequently, as journeys were long and conditions often cramped and overcrowded. Births at sea, too, were not unusual. You may have seen your ancestor described in a census as being “born at sea” under place of birth. This page will tell you where to look.

If you have landed on this page from another site, click if you would like an overview of finding overseas BMDs.

While the baby in this newspaper extract above was born before embarkation, life on board must still have been tough for his parents – even in cabin class! Taken from a newspaper published on The City of Paris in November 1897.

More recently, the GRO now compiles additional registers, particularly since air travel became significant. Three people were born in mid-air on British-registered aircraft between 1947 and 1965, according to the index to the registers!

Registers are available for births and deaths that occurred on (mainly) British registered vessels/rigs, as follows:

  • Sea – 1837-present (also includes some British on foreign vessels).
  • Air – 1947-present.
  • Oil Rigs and Gas Rigs – 1971-present.
  • Hovercrafts – 1972-present.

You can consult the indexes for free at When you’ve found a reference, you can then order a deaths at sea certificate, or whichever one you require, from the General Register Office (GRO).

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