BMDs - Finding the Right One and Getting Copies
For England & Wales many of the Birth, Marriage and Death records from late 1837 onwards can be searched for free via the web at http://freebmd.rootsweb.com/; however even when complete these will stop at 1983. The original index books were able to be searched for free at the Family Records Centre in Islington, London up to 2008. But the records have since been moved to Kew - and the original books are no longer available to the public. For this reason the lists of BMD entries that could be found by manual searching have been removed from this web page. There are several subscription services that provide access to the England & Wales BMD index entries. And you can search a small, but useful, number of local registers via a multi-region search at http://www.ukbmdsearch.org.uk/
Copy certificates can be obtained by post from the national register using the online references. However it may be easier to order from a local register office. Also note that there are differences that have been found between the national index and local records - probably through mistakes with hand written entries. Some regional BMD registers (not just indexes) are also being digitised by the subscription web sites. If you are lucky enough to find your ancestor’s entry in one of these registers it will avoid the need to purchase a printed copy certificate.
The records for Scotland are searchable on-line at Scotlands People and by personal visitors to the ScotlandsPeople Centre at the east end of Princes Street, Edinburgh.
However the General Register Office for England and Wales has refused numerous requests to provide a similar service to Scotland - citing cost, technical problems and data protection issues. Points that their Scottish equivalent, and the subscription services, have already shown can be overcome.