A register office (frequently referred to as a "registry office" in non-official and informal use) is a British term for a civil registry, a government office and depository where births, deaths and marriages are officially recorded and where one can get officially married, without a religious ceremony. The term and function is also used in some parts of the former British Empire such as Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, India, and Jamaica, but not Canada.
In England and Wales, it is a local office for the registration of births, marriages and deaths (B,M&D), and for the conducting of civil partnerships. 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 (now part of the Home Office Identity and Passport Service) but provided locally by the county or unitary local authority.
The Register Office is the office of the Superintendent Registrar of the district, in whose custody are all the registers of BM&D dating back to 1837. The Superintendent Registrar is also responsible for conducting the legal preliminaries to marriage and conducting civil partnership ceremonies.
Registrations of BM&D are carried out by a registrar of BM&D 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 now take place in local approved premises, usually hotels or 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 momentous change came about as a result of the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 following many 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.
- Oxford English Dictionary Online (2011)
- "registry office" Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary. Accessed August 2011
- History, General Register Office, Ireland, 20 Feb 2003. Accessed August 2011