The General Register Office (GRO) is that part of the government of England and Wales that deals with the civil registration of births (including stillbirths), adoptions, marriages and civil partnerships, and deaths in both England and Wales. (There are equivalent but separate offices for the other parts of the United Kingdom, respectively Scotland and Northern Ireland.)
The GRO was founded in 1836 under an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom (6 & 7 Will. IV cap. 86), and civil registration commenced in 1837. Its head is the Registrar General. Probably the most distinguished person associated with the GRO in the nineteenth century, although he was never its head, was William Farr.
In 1972 the GRO became part of the newly created Office of Population Censuses and Surveys (OPCS), with the Registrar General in overall charge. Until then it had had several statistical functions, including the conduct of population censuses and the production of annual population estimates. All these were moved elsewhere within the new organisation. The GRO then became just one division within OPCS, headed by a Deputy Registrar General. Then in 1996 the OPCS, and therefore the GRO, became part of the newly created Office for National Statistics, and the office of Registrar General was merged with that of Head of the Government Statistical Service.
The GRO supplies copies of birth, marriage, civil partnership certificates and death certificates, either online, via the Family Records Centre or from one of the local register offices that act on behalf of the GRO.
The records that have been digitised – over 130 million of them – form part of a system (called EAGLE, for "Electronic Access to GRO Legacy Events ") which is used within the GRO to fulfil requests for certificates from the general public. A different system, known as MAGPIE ("MultiAccess to GRO Public Index of Events"), was intended to make the indexes available to the public via a website. The launch of this service depends on the completion of DoVE, and hence is subject to a presently unknown delay.
The GRO and IPS are reviewing the digitisation project and will then decide how to complete the implementation. They state that they "remain committed to delivering the project to digitise Births, Deaths and Marriage records".