|South Hams area of Devon,UK|
So here goes, with two rather territorial sites: one is narrowed down to the area in which I am researching ie the area of Devon called the South Hams, (from Dartmoor to the sea)
Our4bears.net. This is a collection of transcriptions and lookup offers covering the parishes in the South Hams area. Such bliss! to find transcriptions of parish registers back to the 1600s (or links to local history societies which contain them). I have found so many ancestors this way.
FreeBMD. This is a (free) site, produced by volunteers, which has put online the reference indexes for birth, marriage, and death certificates in England and Wales. Depending on your budget, it might be enough for you to search it and find the reference number for your ancestor, because then at least you know he/she was born/married/died. Then you order the certificate direct from the GRO - ignore some of the commercial companies, who charge waaaay over the top for the simple task of sticking a stamp on an envelope. Why bother with them? when you can request the certificate yourself, and use this site first to make sure you have the reference number for FREE?
This of course only works from 1837 onwards, which was the beginning of civil registration in this country, and wasn't made compulsory until 1875 (so many people didn't register their children, in case it was some evil plot of the government to raise yet more taxes...sigh). At the beginning of 2012 there were over 210 million records. I have done some indexing for them in the past.