Monday, 18 June 2012

GRO England and Wales petition

From Beryl Evans at the Federation of Family History Societies (

With thanks to Rob White for bringing to our attention the following e-petition -

The idea is to have uncertified copies of certificates for family history research, which have no legal authority, similar to they do in the Republic of Ireland. These could be obtained at a much lower fee, the price of £2 per certificate is suggested.

COMMENT: I signed this some time back and would encourage all who use English and Welsh certs to do the same. The example of the Republic of Ireland is cited, but its GRO charges 4 Euros per photocopy (and an additional 2 Euros if a search is needed). On that basis the £2 suggested here may seem fanciful - but when you consider that ScotlandsPeople is actually providing digitised access for records at approximately £1.30 a record, it seems a more than reasonable enough suggestion.

The only thing preventing this being adopted is goodwill from the UK government towards those with English and Welsh ancestry - Scotland and the Republic of Ireland have clearly shown it can be done. If years down the line the English GRO at Southport is still shamefully incapable of creating an online viewing system, then fine. Instead, how about doing what the GRO in Roscommon does? Have someone at the end of a phone or an email address to take orders and process photocopies. Rocket science it most certainly is not, and where there's a will, there is most certainly a way.

Please retweet the link to Rob's petition, or spread the word in any way that you can!


Check out my Scotland's Greatest Story research service
New book: It's Perthshire 1866 - there's been a murder... (from June 12th 2012)


  1. While I think the GRO's efforts with online access are pretty much of a shambles, I am getting fed up with the multiple e-petitions that suggest "uncertified copies of certificates for family history research, which have no legal authority" and claim that "These could be obtained at a much lower fee".

    As family historians, we ought to check our sources and Peter Calvert's LostCousins newsletter for May 2010 gave the broken down costings from the GRO - "Buying the special paper and printing the certificates costs just 16p per certificate". So that's the maximum saving from having uncertified certificates on plain paper - 16p. Sadly, by continually concentrating on the paper angle, all the civil servants will do is point to the 16p figure, instead of being challenged to put the DOVE, etc initiative back on track.

    Actually, as an ex-IT person, I'm not convinced DOVE etc was the way to go. While I've never seen the necessary details, I get the impression (so I might be wrong) that the access for family historians was to be built on top of that for the professionals. When you think about it, these 2 audiences have totally different requirements - registrars want access during office hours only with no material downtime and are happy with being locked out overnight while background work takes place. Family historians on the other hand, want 24x7 access but wouldn't mind being told to come back tomorrow once every few months.

    ScotlandsPeople works, I am guessing, because it's totally separate from the vast bulk of the professionals' daily access.

  2. There's also the speculate-to-accumulate argument - lower the prices and they will come (if you want them to!)!

    DOVE was never meant to be an online portal as with ScotlandsPeople, it was merely a system designed to speed up the document production process. So DOVE would not have made much of a difference, even if completed.

    I've always believed England needs a similar EnglandsPeople set up, and NI is already looking into a similar system for there - as I've said, where there's a will... Scotland gets it - see my post today at about access to the Edinburgh based SP system now being made available in Hawick at just £15 unlimited access for a day, the fourth family history centre in the country now providing access (including Edinburgh), with more to come.

    Rules can be rewritten, systems can be changed, as Scotland is showing only too well. Westminster take note!


  3. Until I retired, I was a Legislative Researcher in Canada. Over here we have vital events registrations, and we have certificates. Two different things, and the legislation reflects this. Certificates are for legal purposes, whereas registrations, which contain the same information (and in the case of deaths, more)are not certified but still government documents.

    Registrations are much cheaper, and if not still protected by the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, easier to obtain. They often contain original signatures. For these reasons genealogists trust them as a reliable and accessible source.

    I applaud your determination to get uncertified copies of vital events for genealogists, but I'm wondering if this might not require a change in legislation at the Westminster level. I suggest you read the law carefully and lobby your MPs to do the right thing.