Birth, death and marriage certificates and family history

We can provide certified copies of birth, death, marriage and civil partnership certificates for events that took place in Cornwall, please contact us to apply.

Information required

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The following information must be supplied before a search of the records may be made:

  • Full name of the person(s) included in the registration
  • Date of the event including date, month and year
  • Location of the event, for example, town or village
  • Any other relevant information that may help us to locate the certificate
  • A stamped addressed envelope would be appreciated

If the entry is traced, the information can only be supplied in the form of a certificate for which a fee is charged.  If the entry is not found a full refund is made.

Please make cheques or postal orders payable to Cornwall Council.    

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is investigating websites that overcharge people for certificates that are available direct from your local register office for the normal fee. These websites often charge more than double the certificate cost and can only obtain the certificate from a local register office or the General Register Office so there is no benefit in using them. It is quicker and cheaper to apply direct to your local register office. 

The Registration Service has custody of registers that recorded births, deaths and marriages occurring in Cornwall since July 1837 when civil registration was introduced.

The Cornwall record office can help you search for other documents that may help your research into your family history.

The service had eleven Registration Districts, but from 1st May 2007, the Districts were abolished and one District was created for the whole county. The Service also holds registers for both civil marriages and non-conformist chapels, Church of England, meeting houses, Jewish marriages and other religious buildings where marriages have taken place. Within each district the parishes are usually divided into a number of sub-districts

Getting Started

If you want to compile a family tree you can do so by making an application to Certificate Applications (Registration), PO Box 94, Truro, TR1 9AZ to enable the Superintendent to undertake a search of the records for the event you are searching for.

The records are, however, concerned with individual events and not with pedigrees.  It may therefore be necessary to make a series of searches to trace the lines of descent back to 1837.  For example, if you wish to trace the record of your father's birth, but do not know when he was born, it may be necessary first to search for the record of your parents' marriage (working backwards from the date of birth of the eldest child in your family).  A certificate of the marriage should give your father's age and the name of his father, and so provide a starting point for tracing and identifying the record of his birth.  A certificate of that birth will give the names of his parents including the mother's maiden surname, and the process may be repeated for the preceding generation.

Information you need to provide in your application

To help us trace entries in registers there are indexes that alphabetically sort the registers by name, year and sub-district.  The majority of these indexes are handwritten.  If you know the district in which the event occurred, the names of those involved and the date of the event (month and year or just year), it should be possible for us to find that entry in the register.  The Superintendent Registrar will make a search two years each side of the date you have supplied even if your information is not complete, but we do not have the resources to make wider searches.

Maps of districts, showing sub-districts

National Index

The General Register Office (GRO) holds a national, central register of birth, deaths and marriages dating back to 1837.

NOTE:  Reference numbers issued by the General Register Office are different from the local authority numbers and do not match up with the local register entries.  However, they do confirm that the event occurred in the particular registration district, and the year/quarter, although the sub-district is not indicated.  It is very helpful for marriages in particular therefore to have a connection to a place, parish or religious denomination.

Sources of Records before 1st July 1837

Before 1st July 1837, the principal means of recording births (or baptisms), marriages and deaths (or burials) were parish registers kept by clergymen of the Church of England.  The best way to trace them is to get in touch with the County Archivist, Cornwall Record Office, Old County Hall, Truro.  The County Archivist also holds a number of other records useful in researching family history, including Methodist registers of baptisms, marriages and burials.

Cornwall Family History Society also has a wide range of indexes, census records and other material as well as a comprehensive store of local and background information.

All local authorities hold records for their administrative area.  if you require a certificate for a birth, death or marriage which occurred outside Cornwall, you will need to contact the register office for that area, as we only hold records for Cornwall.

We hope that you have much success and enjoyment in your research and we look forward to helping you to achieve your aims.