Saturday, August 30, 2014

Searching the FreeBMD Marriage Index

Recently in some of the Facebook genealogy groups I've been seeing questions and confusion with the FreeBMD Marriage Index collection on Ancestry. The confusion I see relates to people not knowing that the associated image found on Ancestry is not the actual registration but just a list of all people, the district where the marriage was registered in a quarter and year, along with the volume, and page where the marriage certificate/registration can be found. All that the BMD index tells you is that the person was married (or born or died depending on the index) sometime before the end of the stated quarter of that year.

The FreeBMD Marriage Index collection (much like the birth and death indexes) found on Ancestry can also be found, for free, at

I'm going to walk through both Ancestry's version and the FreeBMD version of the marriage indexes. I will be using George Warrener, my 2nd great-grandfather on my father's side of the family.


On Ancestry, I found him in the index entry for the 1853 Oct-Nov-Dec quarter.

FreeBMD, "England & Wales, FreeBMD Marriage Index: 1837-1915," database, ( : accessed 30 Aug 2014), entry for George Warener, volume 9d, page 634, Dec quarter 1853, Scarborough district; citing the General Register Office's England and Wales Civil Registration Indexes.

There are four names at the bottom of the index search result. So just who are those people? Are they witnesses (like one person thought)? No, they are people married and registered with that same registration year, the quarter, district, volume and page number. Most often you will come across a total of four names but I have seen only three names at times. You might note that two of the names are males and two females. So two couples were registered as being married.

Now let's search for his marriage on FreeBMD ...


FreeBMD search page for George Warrener

Note that I checked the "Phonetic search surname" box. I know that the Warrener name has been spelled many different ways in the records so this takes in account many of those spellings (or misspellings). I rarely select the district but I try to narrow down the county. Usually the county is known or at least guessed at based on findings in census records and birth records of children. Often the marriage will take place in the home parish of the bride or where she was last living with her family. A good map of the time is always useful tool in your research. To select multiple counties or parts of counties (like the various Ridings of Yorkshire) you can select multiple counties by holding down the control key (on Windows systems) when you click on the county names. You can also narrow down the date range based on other events in their lives. But assuming that a person was married before the birth of their first child can be a dangerous assumption to make.

FreeBMD marriage search result for George Warrener
You can see a George Warener married in the quarter ending December 1853. If you click on the page number link, 634, it brings up a similar list to what was found on Ancestry in their search results.

FreeBMD marriage search result for Scarbro, volume 9d, page 634

So, just who married who? There are several ways to find out.
  1. You could look at the decennial census records for the years following. Using details you had hopefully found earlier in your research you may be able to narrow it down. Can you find a George and Ellen Warrener or possibly a George and Mary Warrener in the 1861 census?
  2. Maybe a naming pattern will give a clue. Since this was a direct line of mine, I know that his son's name is George Kaye Warrener. Could he have named his son by including his wife's maiden name? OK, so this is a leading question.
  3. You could look for his baptism record. On the Ancestry search result there is also a link to view the Ecclesiastical Parishes associated with the district. You can click on that link and bring up a list of the parishes.
The only way to be sure that the couple is the right one and to know the actual date of marriage is to find the marriage registration itself. You have a few options to find out the marriage registration details:
 Just don't buy it via a third party site as they will typically add a $5-$20 surcharge.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for clearing this up and adding the links!