Civil Registration of Births, Marriages and Deaths started in England and Wales in July 1837. Prior to this you have to rely on other sources such as parish registers, wills and newspaper reports.
Certificates can be ordered on line with a credit card at http://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/certificates/
In order to find the correct certificate, go first to http://www.freebmd.org.uk/.
Please note that this is an index only, and the only way to find out the exact information on the certificate is to purchase a copy. The current cost is £9.25 per certificate, but they are essential to family history research. FreeBMD is only indexed until about the middle of the 20th century, although more is being added by volunteers all the time. With later births, marriages and deaths it is sometimes necessary to trawl through the actual index pages quarter by quarter. (Click on View Images and follow the instructions). Also be aware that if an event took place towards the end of a quarter it might not have been registered until the following quarter.
In Scotland, Civil Registration started in 1855, but full copies of the certificates may be downloaded from the pay per view site, Scotlandspeople.
In Ireland, state registration of non-Roman Catholic marriages began in 1845, and civil registration for all births, marriages and deaths in 1864. However, many Irish records were destroyed in 1922. Records from 1864 to 1922, for all Ireland, and from 1922 for the Republic are held at the Office of the Registrar General, Joyce House, 8-11 Lombard Street, Dublin 2, Ireland. Certificates can be ordered online from http://www.groireland.ie
Northern Irish records since 1922 are held at the GRO, Oxford House, Chichester Street, Belfast, Northern Ireland, BT1 4HL. Certificates can be ordered online from http://www.groni.gov.uk
If you currently have any unwanted certificates, why not be a star and help out a fellow genealogist? On the British Genealogy Forum, we have a dedicated section to unwanted certificates. You may be holding the key to someone else’s research! Sign up for free today and unlock another branch for someone else!