The General Register Office (GRO) in England has announced that a contract has been signed to digitize the birth, marriage, and death certificates that start in July 1837. For more information see http://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/news/Dove_contract_signed.asp
These are crucial records for finding and documenting families. Indexes are available on film or fiche in select libraries. Searching is tedious because each year has four A-Z indexes, one for each quarter of the year. A recent online project, FreeBMD, is a quicker way to search an index but is not complete.
Certificates are not available to the public and have to be purchased through the General Register Office. A "green paper" - requesting that certificates be released to the public - was submitted to Parliament more than 15 years ago. It is good news to hear that the GRO will make them available.