Quite an exciting day today. Stitchwort left me a comment on my last post, in which she told me about the website http://www.freebmd.org.uk/ (free births, marriages and deaths). As she said, they have got most of the General Register Office index transcribed and searchable without charge, and if you click on a "pair of spectacles" symbol you can see the scan of the original GRO page, and enlarge it enough to read the entry.
The entries are all post 1837, so they are a bit late for some of the enquiries I am making, but I was able to find the month and year of birth of my husband's father, which we hadn't known before, and it was quite a moving moment to bring up a photograph of the actual index page with the entry on it. Now I have to decide whether I want to pay for a copy of the birth certificate - probably not!
I found one or two other birth dates as well, but it is much easier where the person has an unusual name. My husband's father was Harry Fisher Taylor, and his brother Herbert Gate Taylor, so there was only one entry for each of them in the right place at the right time. I was not so lucky with the other two siblings, Frederick and Mary Isabel, as there were a number of entries to choose from for each. There's a peck of frustration for only a pinch of success in this game!