https://hodigital.blog.gov.uk/2017/03/22/building-the-registration-district-register-alpha/

Building the ‘registration district’ register alpha

We have recently launched the alpha of the registration district register which we’ve been working on with the General Register Office to list registration districts across the UK.

In the registers team we work with government organisations to turn their lists of data into registers. Registers are authoritative list of information you can trust, such as the country register, which we developed with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). One of the first departments I started working with at the end of last year was the General Register Office (GRO).

GRO oversees the registration of births, deaths, marriages and civil partnerships in England and Wales, with an archive that dates back to 1837. They already provide data to the public through data.gov.uk so the next step was to review whether any of their lists of data could be turned into registers.

The first register we’ve worked on with GRO is the registration district register which is now in alpha.

Evolution of the registration district register

Registration districts are administrative regions for the civil registration of births, marriages, deaths and civil partnerships. Although you can use local register offices, such as your local library, to use the registration service, it’s the registration district that’s responsible for making sure that certificates for births, deaths, marriages and so on, are sent out and historical records are maintained.

GRO and GDS first discussed the possibility of creating a register of register offices in England and Wales. There’s already a find your local register office search on GOV.UK which is really useful. However keeping it up to date is time consuming and can lead to errors or missing entries as it relies on manually gathering information from local authority websites. We knew that if we could find the authoritative owner of the data (known as the custodian), we could create a register of register offices and improve the quality and accuracy of the data.

The GRO have a legal responsibility to keep details of district register offices. Within each registration district there are local register offices. Many of these local offices will be in a building which has another use, like a library or hospital, and will only be open at certain times. For example in my local area there is a Kent District Office in Maidstone which the GRO holds the details for. But if I wish to use the registration service, I make an appointment at my local library to meet with a Registrar Official.

The GRO doesn’t keep a central record of these local offices, instead these office details are maintained at a local level. This means that the GRO can’t be the custodian of a register of all the register offices in England and Wales. It’s a core principle of registers that the custodian must own the data and be able to keep it up to date and accurate.

As such, we agreed with GRO that their register should list just the registration districts. We worked with the GRO to turn this data into the registration district register.

What next?

Now the registration district register is in alpha we’ll be working with the GRO to respond to feedback and iterate the dataset if needed. Once the data is finalised it will move to beta which is the point when it will be open to all and can be used in live services. This isn’t the end of our work with GRO though, we’ll continue to support them with maintaining the registration district register, and we’ll start looking at what other registers we can work on together.

Tell us what you think

We want to know:

  • how easy the register is to use
  • how you use the data
  • what you think of the dataset

Any other comments or suggestions are also welcome. Take a look and let us know what you think by emailing us at registerteam@digital.cabinet-office.gov.uk

If you think you have your own dataset that could be a register then please get in touch, or take a look at our dashboard to see if there’s a register already out there you could be using in your service.

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