Using gazettes for official records

The London Gazette, The Edinburgh Gazette and The Belfast Gazette are published in the United Kingdom and their archives are a useful source of information for finding out about your family history. The website is free to use and is searchable by name as well as being available to browse through.

The London Gazette is the official newspaper of record for the United Kingdom and was first published in 1665 in the reign of Charles II. For 350 years the Gazette has disseminated Government news, regulatory and legal information, and trade and business news. It ceased to be a newspaper many years ago, but exists as the prime source of official notices. Furthermore, if has been joined by two sister publications – the Edinburgh Gazette and the Belfast Gazette – which fulfil a similar function to the London Gazette in Scotland and Northern Ireland respectively.

The Edinburgh Gazette and The Belfast Gazette do not date from as early as The London Gazette. The Edinburgh Gazette first published in 1699, but with several breaks, has been published continuously from 1793 to the present day. The Belfast Gazette from 1921. Its forerunner was The Dublin Gazette, first published in 1706, and from 1922 published under the title Iris Oifigiuil.

All of the Gazettes are now published under the auspices of The Stationery Office, and contain a great range of official announcements such as

  • Announcements of appointments in the armed forces. The promotions of navy, army (both regular army and militia) and air force officers usually can be found. An officer’s commission was not considered official until he was “gazetted” – meaning that he was listed in the London Gazette. A list of officers killed and wounded at Waterloo appeared as a supplement to the Gazette on 1 July 1815 but other ranks did not normally appear until about the time of the Crimean War when full lists of casualties were given. Lists of money due to their dependents were also publicised there, as they were in the First World War.
  • Bankruptcies.  From almost its earliest days notices about bankruptcies began to be published in the London Gazette and in the course of the 18th century it became standard practice to publish a formal statement there, showing the name, address and occupation of the bankrupt. In 1785 some 500 were listed; by 1850 the number had grown to about 2,000 a year.
  • Captains, Mates and Civil Servants. With the introduction of certificates of Competency for Masters and Mates of merchant vessels in 1845, they were published in the London Gazette and the entries there show the date and place of birth of the master or mate, his ticket number, class of certificate, his present or last previous service, and the date and place of the examination. They are last shown in 1850. In a similar manner, those who passed the Civil Service examinations were also listed when these were introduced in 1855. These lists, which only show the name of the candidate, continued for many years.
  • Court announcements.
  • Changes of Name. Royal Licences and private Acts of Parliament authorising people to change their surnames have been published in the London Gazette from early times. The more usual deeds poll of change of name have been enrolled (since 1903) on the Enrolment Books
    Recorded in The Gazette (London Gazette). Issue 38614. P. 2439. 17 May 1949.

    Recorded in The Gazette (London Gazette). Issue 38614. P. 2439. 17 May 1949.

    of the Supreme Court (in J18 at The National Archives, Kew), but since 1914 more detailed regulations have required their advertisement in the London Gazette. Some other declarations of change of name without a deed poll are also advertised there. In many instances the forenames as well as the surnames are changed. I was lucky enough to find my great uncle’s change of name when he was in his 40s.

  • Dissolution of Partnerships. Although there was never any legal requirement to do so, from about 1750 it became customary to list dissolutions of business partnerships in the London Gazette, and by 1850 about 1,500 a year were appearing. The listings, not being obligatory, are not so complete as those of bankrupts.
  • Gallantry awards. Those mentioned in dispatches are also listed, and from 1843 these include other ranks. From 1914 all recipients of honours and awards have been listed.
  • Liquidation notices.
  • Naturalisation.  Prior to 1844 some Letters Patent of denization were published in the Gazette and since 1886 those who receive naturalization certificates have been listed there.
  • Royal Warrant Holders are published annually; these are the tradesmen who supply the various Royal Households and have received a Warrant entitling them to use the appropriate Royal Arms.
  • Probate notices.
  • Planning notices.

Further readingl

Familysearch have a really useful wiki on the gazettes.