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A register office or The General Register Office, much more commonly registry office (except in official use), is a British government office where births, deaths, marriages, civil partnership, stillbirths and adoptions in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are registered. It is the licensed local of civil registry.
England and Wales
In England and Wales, register offices record births, marriages, deaths, civil partnership, stillbirths and adoptions. Set up by Act of Parliament in 1837, the statutory registration service is overseen by the Registrar General as part of the General Register Office, part of the Home Office Identity and Passport Service but provided locally by local authorities.
The Register Office is the office of the Superintendent Registrar of the district, in whose custody are all the registers dating back to 1837. The Superintendent Registrar is also responsible for conducting the legal preliminaries to marriage and conducting civil partnership ceremonies.
Registrations are carried out by a registrar and each registration district will have one or more registrars and each may be responsible for a particular sub-district.
Since 1994, the range of services offered by register offices has expanded so that they may now provide additional celebratory services including statutory citizenship and civil partnership ceremonies and non-statutory ceremonies such as naming and renewal of vows. All civil ceremonies may also take place in local approved premises, including hotels and public buildings.
On 1 December 2007, all Registrars and Superintendent Registrars in England and Wales became employees of the local authorities providing the registration service, having been statutory officers with no legal employment status. This came about as a result of the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 following decades of campaigning by the trade unions that represented registration officers in England and Wales, the Society of Registration Officers and UNISON.
In Ireland, legislation came into force in 1845 which provided for the registration of civil marriages and for the regulation of all non-Catholic marriages. Roman Catholic marriages were reported to the relevant superintendent registrar.
Equivalents outside the UK
There is no direct equivalent in the USA, but the bureaus of vital statistics perform some similar tasks. In Italy the function is fulfilled by the Anagrafe nazionale della popolazione residente and in Germany by the Standesamt.