The (relatively) new GRO Index; how to cite the site and the document

The "Search the Online GRO Index" website has become one of my go-to sites for birth and death information in England. I realize the information given by the index is derivative and should serve as an interim source until more definitive evidence (i.e., the actual register) is obtained, but I would still like to cite it occasionally. Here's the format I've been using: 

"Search the Online GRO Index," database, HM Passport Office (https://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/certificates/indexes_search.asp : accessed [date]), Joseph Caston, Mar qtr, 1847, Royston & Buntingford, vol. 6/491; citing General Register Office, Southport.

I'm using the Author/Title/Publisher/entry details format, but have left the author blank, since it is the General Register office.

Once I have received an unofficial PDF download of the document from the GRO, it seems to me that the PDF is now akin to an artifact in my possession, so I've been citing it like this:

England, General Register Office, death registration, Royston & Buntingford/Melbourn, 1847, no. 92, Joseph Casbon, 3 Mar; PDF copy in personal collection of Jon Casbon.

The image from the PDF is attached

I would appreciate comments/corrections. Thank you!

Joseph Casbon death registration 1847

 

Submitted byEEon Fri, 02/01/2019 - 11:37

Jon, two thoughts.

Re your citation to the database …

Search the Online GRO Index," database, HM Passport Office (https://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/certificates/indexes_search.asp : accessed [date]), entry for Joseph Caston, Mar qtr, 1847, Royston & Buntingford, vol. 6/491; citing General Register Office, Southport.

In order to replicate your search, the site asks us to identify the type of source we want. Does your citation represent a birth or death? Yes, your second citation, based on receipt of an imaged record, does state death; but the reader of your citation to the database itself will need that information included.

Re your citation to the image …

England, General Register Office, death registration, Royston & Buntingford/Melbourn, 1847, no. 92, Joseph Casbon, 3 Mar; PDF copy in personal collection of Jon Casbon.

Because you personally ordered this record, it would be more precise and more helpful if your citation reflected the agency through which you obtained it, along with whatever collection identifiers that archive uses. These details would be needed by others to obtain the same record. You would need those details to obtain additional records from the same source.

If you cite this as an artifact that came to you through some unofficial source, you would still need to provide provenance (EE 3.24).  As currently structured, the citation gives your reader no clue as to how you got that copy or who created the PDF (a tool that allows for all sorts of data manipulation). Without that information, readers can't make a judgement as to the reliability of the source you are citing for evidence of whatever fact you are asserting.

Submitted byjcasbonon Fri, 02/01/2019 - 12:59
Dear Editor, thanks for your advice. I should have included "deaths" in my first example. I actually do use "births" and "deaths" in my citations but omitted it from my example above. I wasn't sure whether to list the record image as an artifact or as a vital records register entry. It seems that the latter would be better based on your comments. I actually ordered the record image through the same (GRO) website as the first example, so here's a second attempt at the citation, following EE 9.48. England, death registration (unofficial copy) for Joseph Casbon, died 3 Mar 1847; registered March quarter 1847, Royston & Buntingford District, vol. 6/491, Melbourn Sub-district; General Register Office, Southport. I'm not certain whether to call this a death registration vs certificate, since seems to have elements of both to me. I'm not sure it really matters for citation purposes as long as the other identifiers have been included. This has been very helpful. Thanks so much!

Submitted byEEon Fri, 02/01/2019 - 20:31

Jon, it's difficult to discern exactly what one has, when archivists give it to us out of context. However, most I've obtained or seen that resemble what you picture is part of a page in a register in which multiple deaths are registered. This does not appear to be a standalone certificate that is made by copying data from a register and it clearly was not a standalone certificate issued to the family about the time the death occurred.

 

Submitted byjcasbonon Fri, 02/01/2019 - 21:33

Dear Editor, 

Yes, I agree. In the case of the GRO, I believe if one requests an official "certificate" they send the same type of register image (for a higher fee), with a stamp to make it "official." Thanks again for the help. I don't know how you are able to get any work done between writing books and responding to inquiries such as mine!

Submitted byJayhawker94on Sun, 02/03/2019 - 04:35

One additional thing to consider is that these records are all copies of the original and that might need to be mentioned in the reference. Before they introduced the PDF copies, I usually used the title directly off the certificate as follows:

  • England, General Register Office, Certified Copy of an Entry of Birth Given at the General Register Office, for Evelyn Cornwallis Anderson Pelham, born 16 Sept. and registered 18 Sept. 1851; a copy of an entry in the certified copy of a register of births in the registration district of Brigg, co. Lincoln, dated 11 July 2018.

The description in the 2nd half of the reference, although no quote marks are used, was largely a quote from the certificate since it accurately describes the origin of the image. After they introduced the PDF copies, I adjusted the reference slightly so that it could appear as follows:

  • England, General Register Office, PDF copy of an entry of birth, for Evelyn Cornwallis Anderson Pelham, born 16 Sept. and registered 18 Sept. 1851; a copy of an entry in the certified copy of a register of births in the registration district of Brigg, co. Lincoln.

These examples might not quite follow EE's recommended form, but I don't think they lack any of the required items. I probably could have added the date the PDF copy was received from the GRO. And the person possessing of the copy could be added to the reference.