Civilian Overseas BMD Records

Are you looking for overseas BMD records (births, marriages and deaths)? If your ancestor was a civilian, this page will tell you where to look. If your ancestor was a member of the armed forces (or a dependent of a member), then try looking at armed forces records.

Note: If you have landed on this page from another site, click if you want to know more about finding general information about overseas BMD records.

Initially, you may feel a little confused by all the possibilities. However, it is quite easy to narrow down where you may find the overseas BMD records:

  • Consular returns 1849-present – registrations made by the British authorities at Consulates in foreign countries.
  • British High Commission 1949-present – registrations made by the British authorities at High Commissions in the British Commonwealth countries.

From 1966, these were combined as the Births, Marriages and Deaths Abroad Indexes.

  • Foreign marriage certificates 1949-present – in many countries, British citizens who marry abroad can deposit their foreign certificates with the GRO.

All the above indexes are available for free online, at www.familyrelatives.org. Choose the search option, then Overseas Records. The BMDs are available up to 1994, and the foreign marriage certificates index up to 1965.

Once you have found a reference, you can order a certificate from the General Register Office (GRO). Of course, you don't need a reference, but it may take a little longer to get the certificate. You can always call the GRO on 0300 123 1837 if you need more information.

If you are looking for more recent information, for example for BMDs after 1994, you can provide the GRO with the country and the date of death, and see if they can find the information for you. It's advisable to ring first. Also bear in mind that registering with the British authorities is not compulsory.

My father sailed around the world as a merchant seaman in the 1920s. The old photo on the right shows him at sea, complete with gun to deter pirates in the South China Seas.

He, along with many other British people, were to be found spread across the world. Many are listed in the overseas BMD records for civilians.

Travel abroad was more common than you might think. My dad came from a small Lincolnshire village. He remembered arriving in Singapore around 1926, only to bump into a young man who had been in the year above him at school.

Charles Watkins overseas

Holdings At The National Archives

You can also try the various GRO foreign returns, now held at The National Archives at Kew, near London.

  • Foreign registers and returns 1627-1960 – ref RG 33
  • Miscellaneous foreign returns 1627-1960 – ref RG 43
  • Miscellaneous foreign returns 1831-1969 – ref RG 32
  • Miscellaneous foreign marriage returns 1826-1921 – ref RG 34
  • Miscellaneous foreign death returns 1830-1921 – ref RG 35
  • Registers and returns of BMDs in the Protectorates of Africa and Asia 1895-1965 – ref RG 36

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