“ FreeBMD providing free internet access to transcribed records: Civil Registration index of births, marriages and deaths for England and Wales. „
If anyone reading this review has already read my review on the Find My Past genealogy website, you may recall me mentioning this website. If I'm looking for a birth, marriage or death as part of my family history research, this is the first site I head for in most cases. For those who are not familiar with the site, it's a means of searching for birth, marriage and death records so that you can get the necessary details to allow you to order the certificate from the General Register Office (GRO) if you so wish. While I've done this on a small number of occasions, I usually use the site to confirm suspicions regarding dates and rule out things that don't tie in with what I know from census records etc.
SEARCHING FOR BIRTHS/MARRIAGES/DEATHS
It helps to have some information to go on when you're using the search facility. If all you have is the person's name, you're likely to come up against a huge number of records that may match your search request, and FreeBMD will refuse to process this if it comes up with over 3000 possibilities. Because of this, it helps a lot if you can specify a date range or have a county to go on. Searching is simple - you just enter the relevant details into the form and hit 'Find'.
Assuming there are results to display, they'll be in chronological order with the earliest dates at the top. Surnames are displayed first, followed by given names, the district in which the event was registered and the Vol and Page details, which you'll need for ordering certificates. The info button allows you to see who else was registered at the same time, so for a marriage, it will allow you to see both the bride and groom and usually one or two other couples. The surnames are also shaded a certain colour to denote whether they refer to a birth (pink), a marriage (green) or a death (grey).
Free BMD is a volunteer project and you're not charged to use the site. This is one of the biggest reasons why I'll use it instead of going to Find My Past or Genes Reunited (my primary online genealogy tool outside of FreeBMD) as both of those sites require subscriptions. You might think that I'd prefer to use GR given that I already have a subscription there but I find FreeBMD easier to use. I'm planning a review on GR in the not-too-distant future so I'll go into more details about why this is in that.
The advent of the internet has changed our lives in many ways - one of these being the pastime of genealogy. Only a few years ago, researching your family tree meant travelling to registry offices and archives to check documents in person. Nowadays, with the likes of Ancestry, Findmypast, and other such websites, you can do a huge amount of research from the comfort of your home. One website which is not so flashy and a little less well known is freebmd.org.uk. This wonderful treasure trove of information is absolutely free (and anyone who has ever ventured into the world of genealogy will know it is an expensive pursuit), and in my opinion it is the absolute best source for birth, marriage and death indexes (abbreviated to BMD).
FreeBMD is not a catch-all genealogy site, but instead concentrates on a single aim - to make the entire Birth Marriage and Death indexes of England and Wales available free of charge to the general public. Transcription is on-going, so the indexes are not yet complete, however an enormous amount has been done. Given the amount other places charge for access to information such as census returns, this is a significant contribution to the world of genealogy hobbyists and professionals alike.
So what are the BMD indexes? Well, you're not going to find a copy of your great-grandparents' marriage certificate on this website, but what you will find is the information you need to get a hold of it. The certificates themselves are stored at the General Register Office (GRO) and they will send you a copy for (currently) £7. To get this copy, you need to tell GRO certain information that is stored in the massive BMD indexes, so they can send you the right one. They need the year and quarter the event was registered in, the name of at least one person on the certificate, the district name and number and the volume and page number from the index. That's a lot of information, and that's where freeBMD comes in.
The freeBMD database covers the period 1837-1983. Births, marriages and deaths weren't recorded officially before 1837 and in 1983 the official system was computerised, so these entries are already available elsewhere.
Information is added by a massive team of volunteers who transcribe the data from scans of the original indexes (there is an explanation as to why transcription is the best way to get this into the system on the freeBMD website). This data is then uploaded in batches every month or two, and the homepage will tell you when the last batch went up.
There are of course errors in the data, both in the original indexes and in the transcription process. FreeBMD have a couple of systems in place to minimize this - volunteers use a 'verification' software to check their entries before uploading, and all entries are (or will be) double-keyed, which means that two separate volunteers will transcribe the same data. However, it is always worth bearing errors in mind when you're searching the indexes.
The heart of FreeBMD is the search page, and there are a number of different options you can use to narrow or expand your search. For example, you can search by first name and surname, spouse name for marriages or mother's maiden name for births (more on this later), and limit your search to a date range or a county or district. It pays to be flexible here because it often takes a bit of playing around with various parameters and spellings to get the best results for your particular event. If your search returns a lot of results, it can take a very long time for the results to load.
If you're having trouble finding who you're looking for, try leaving the spouse name (for marriages) or mother's maiden name (for births) blank - these are not on the earlier indexes.
FreeBMD is not just a stepping-off point though. The indexes themselves can tell you a lot of information without having to order a certificate, especially if you cross-reference them with census returns (you'll need a subscription or PAYG credits for another website to access these). You can use the indexes to pin down dates for events in your ancestors' lives, or find out who they married, which will then give you more to go on when searching census returns.
If you're looking for a marriage, freeBMD will match the volume and page numbers with other entries that share them. Sometimes from a census you will know that your ancestor John Smith married a woman called Charlotte. So you can look through and find a John Smith who has been matched with a Charlotte, learning her surname in the process! This is a great feeling. Then you can dig out your credit card and order their certificate from GRO, which - if you're lucky - will tell you their addresses, ages, occupations and the name and occupations of their fathers! Or you can look at the census returns again and find Charlotte as a child living with her parents - you now have another family to learn about!
There is a wealth of background information on freeBMD about how to get the most out of your searches and that sort of thing, and very useful charts that show which pages from the indexes have been transcribed, so you can check and see if your date range is covered. The earlier indexes are more likely to be on there. Anything after about 1915 or so is still quite patchy.
It's always worth doing a bit of background reading about the indexes so you know what quirks they have - sometimes people don't give the name you would think was obvious, or register a child's name as 'male' or 'female' if they aren't named at the time of registration.
I suspect that the BMD info on Ancestry is taken from freeBMD. I have found the same transcription errors on both sites, but I find freeBMD offers much more control over search parameters, and I prefer the way it presents the results. Certainly, no other site that I know of has a more complete database than freeBMD.
By now you may be wondering how I know so much about how freeBMD works. Well, I've been a volunteer transcriber for a year or so. I think freeBMD is such a fantastic resource that I wanted to give something back! If you want to volunteer, you join one of the many syndicates and the leader of your group will guide you through the whole process and is always an email away if you need any help or advice. If you're considering joining as a volunteer but it seems too complicated, don't worry - you will be talked through everything and they even have their own software to simplify the whole process.
In summary, freeBMD is a fantastic resource both as an index and as a source of information for genealogists - amateur and professional alike.
I think this is an absolutely fabulous site, a brilliant project and many thanks to all those who volunteered to enter information as that's what they did! Volunteers entered births, marriages and deaths into this database so that others could have the information for free.
I have been doing research for over 10 years and this is one of the best ways of making a start in research. I now research for others from home. Type in the surname and name of the person you'd like to search for and if you know the area that also, basically put in as much as you can to start with and click search, if it works - bingo you have your answer! if it doesn't then take out a few of the bits you've put in for instance mothers maiden name, or spouse surname or even the place - they may not have been born, married or died where you thought they had.
With the marriage search it's useful to note that if you do find something that is of interest you can click the number that's underlined next to the person and it shows the spouse's sheet also so you can double check if the information is correct.
Once you have the information the Quarter, volume, page and names etc then you can send off for the certificate.
Basically free bmd is the same information you would find if you'd visited the family records office in London, except it's easier!! there you used to have to go through volumes and volumes of great huge heavy books to find your ancestors and even then you might not have found them, whereas this way it electronically searches in an instance!
After 1915ish birth searches become a lot easier as you can put in the maiden name of the mother and it will find any children with that maiden name.
I find this a very useful tool, along with the free cen and free reg which aren't quite finished yet - if you fancy helping out why not volunteer to help them!!
FreeBMD is an ongoing project, the aim of which is to transcribe the Civil Registration index of births, marriages and deaths for England and Wales, and to provide free Internet access to the transcribed records.
The transcribing of the records is carried out by teams of volunteers and contains index information for the period 1837-1983. The project is not finished yet and you may not be able to find the records you are looking for (I have been successful in around 90% of searches).
I have done searches on many sites but have found that FreeBMD is the best for finding what you want. It has more (and more accurate) information than any other site - even pay to access sites such as ancestry.
Upon entering the site you see a search box in which you enter a first name and/or a surname. When you type the name in you are taken to ancestry.co.uk, which is quite confusing. If you go back to the site you see that this is simply an advert and you have to scroll down the page to search the website, which I found quite an odd set-up.
When you do eventually find the search section, you find that you can search for Births, Marriages, Deaths, all of them, or any combination of the three. You can search between any years, and any quarters of years. You can search any Districts or Counties. There is also the option of searching not only for a specific name but for spouses/parents names as well so you have a better chance of finding the right person.
A huge bonus with this site is that you can do a phonetic search on surnames - Essential if you are not sure of the spelling, and very helpful the further back you are searching as people weren't fussy about getting spellings right and often wrote them as they heard them.
Marriages are also easier to track on this site as you can search for the volume and page number of marriage records. So if you know one person but were not sure of the other then you can jot down the volume and page number and find the other person from that. There are usually 2 marriages per page in the records and most sites just show you the four names but FreeBMD tells you which man goes with which wife, which is useful.
All in all... although the project is not yet finished it is pretty far through and is extremely helpful when trying to trace records. I would highly recommend this site as I have found a lot of information here that I would not have found searching elsewhere.
The purpose of this site is to transcribe the Birth, Marriages & Deaths index for England & Wales.
Civil registration started in 1837 so if you're looking for information prior to that date a suitable starting point would be www.familysearch.org which has details of Parish Records. It's worth remembering that in the cases of most people only christening, marriage & burial dates were kept before 1837. It's fairly unusual to find a birth or death date recorded.
FreeBMD offers a number of things.
Firstly there are the transcribed indexes of births, marriages & deaths. Before you start looking for your event it's worth checking out the coverage charts which can found be under the heading "statistics" once you've clicked on the information button.
These charts tell you the percentage of each quarter in each year that has been transcribed so far. So, if you're unable to find a birth, death or marriage that you're looking for it may be because the year in question has only been partially transcribed, or perhaps not even started yet.
Once you've satisfied yourself that the birth, marriage or death you're looking for took place in a period that's been transcribed then you're ready to begin searching.
The search page offers you a number of options to narrow down your field of searching. Firstly you can choose to just search for a birth, a marriage or a death, or you can look for all events associated with a particular person.
You can then further narrow your search by selecting a county, a district or a date range. For birth certificates you can also search for the mother's maiden name & for marriages you can enter the spouse's name & surname.
Searching for birth & deaths will provide you with the following pieces of information:-
+ Name of the person
+ Quarter / year in which the event was registered (it's worth remembering that just because an event was registered in a certain quarter it doesn't automatically mean that it took place in the same quarter)
+ Page Number.
You will need all of this information if you wish to order copies of certificates from the General Register Office.
Searching for a marriage certificate will bring up the same information. However, if you click on the page number link it will also bring up a list of the other people listed in the same volume, on the same page as the person you've searched for. The number of people on any page may vary from 2 to 8 & one of them will be the husband/wife of the person you have searched for. Occasionally you may get an odd number of people listed. This may be because transcription for that quarter / year is not complete or because one or more people have been listed more than once.
Scans of the indexes are avaialble for many of the events transcribed so you can often check for yourself that the transcriber has copied the district, volume, page number correctly.
FreeBMD also allows you to transcribe the indexes as well. There's no monetary reward in doing so but it's worth remembering that you probably wouldn't have found the information you wanted about the birth(s), marriage(s) or death(s) that you searched for if they hadn't been transcribed by people who had volunteered if the first place.
It's nice to give something back whether you do a bit of transcribing on FreeBMD, www.familysearch.org or the Ancestry World Archives Project.
Freebmd.org is a fantastic website in my opinion, as it provides a large wealth of free information on birth, marriages and deaths.
I have been conducting research into my genealogy for quite some time and found freebmd about 18 months ago whilst browsing on the Internet. The site itself is relatively easy to navigate in my opinion and frequently updated, which is always a bonus.
When you first get to the site you will find yourself on a homepage that offers you many options. For the beginning genealogist you simply click on the search button and then begin searching for whatever it is you want.
The search page itself is more than adequate in my opinion and easy to understand for the start. On this page you simply type is as much information about the record you would like to find as you have and let the search engine on the site do the rest. If you have limited information however the site can still be of use and I have used it very successfully in this way many times. This page gives you the option to select what type of record you are looking for: birth, marriage or death or just do a general search across all records. You also have the option to specify a district or a county and can also limited the dates that the site will search the database between.
Whichever method you search with the database will produce a list of results, which will be shown on a new page. The results are again shown to you in a way that is very simple to follow. The quarter and year that the result was found in will be shown first and then below it a list of all records that match your search. The next quarter and year will then be shown and so on and so forth.
If one of the records that you spot captures your eye you can then look for more information. If the record is a marriage record you can click on the page number given next to it and you will be taken to a small list that contains between 3 and 7 other names of people. One of those people will be the spouse of the before specified person. If it is a birth record you may be able to find out the mothers maiden name and if the record is a death record then you may be given the deceased age, which may in turn enable you to search for their birth.
Some records also come with the option to view the original scan that the data was transcribed from. This is a useful tool if one of your ancestors has a funny surname or first name spelling that transcribers may have got wrong or if you simply want to verify the details.
The mention of transcribers leads me on to my next point about freebmd. Since February last year I have been involved with their transcription program and have found it to be very rewarding. The program is of course voluntary and so has no monetary value but the satisfaction of realising that you are helping many others access data about their family history is more than enough for me.
It is relatively simple to join their transcription program and many syndicates do not require you to have any access to specialist equipment. Just because it is easy to join the program however does not mean that the site is full of uselessly transcribed pieces of information, as each transcription is done by more than one person to cut down on errors and then checked by a syndicate leader. You simply transcribe as much as you can whenever you can and any effort is welcomed greatly.
You may be able to tell from what I have written that I am a big fan of the freebmd website and that is definitely true. I think that it is a site that deserves a lot of credit as it does provide free access to information with free being the most important word. It is probably a good place to point out that official birth, marriage and death records didn't begin until 1837 and so no records before this are held on the site. You may also like to know that it is not possible to access extremely up to date birth, marriages or deaths for legal reasons and applications to do so must be made to the registry office in question.
If you're trying to find out about the genealogy of your family then freebmd is definitely a site that you should keep in mind.
If you're just starting out looking into your family history and don't quite feel up to splashing out on a pretty expensive subscription to ancestry.com then this site is a good place to start.
It is basically an internet based and searchable database of the UK's birth, marriage and death indexes. It is being transcribed by volunteers so not all areas have all dates yet but so far I've never yet not been able to find something or someone!
You can search by surname, spouse's name and forename or a combination of these. There are filters for county and district which are useful if its a common name and you know the rough area you are looking at.
Search results are not detailed. For births, you do not even get the proper date of birth just the quarter and year it was registered. The same is true for deaths and marriages. However, one very useful feature is that for marriages you can look at who else is on the same page of the index. This is very helpful in finding the other partner of a marriage or a maiden name. From 1912 onwards there are only 2 people per entry so this is easy, before 1912 however there may be more which means extra infomation such as spouse's forename is needed for accuracy.
There are two other sites with the same idea of producing free genealogy information online which are definitely worth checking out, google freereg and freecen.
There are dozens and dozens of sites around the internet that you can use to find information regarding your family tree and most of them have one thing in common and that is that they will charge you for their services.
One site that offers you these services completely free is freebmd.org.uk, I have had a browse around this site on regular occasion's purely through nosiness but my hubby has used the site very well to create a very impressive family tree.
Bmd takes its name from the registers it uses to provide you with the information you seek: births, marriages and deaths. The site contains civil records stretching back to 1837 and it has allowed my hubby to find information on his family right back to this date.
The website is a fairly plain site to view and it is not designed to entice you to join up to any other sites as a lot of free sites are. It is very easy to navigate and all the relevant info you will be looking for is fairly easy to search for.
The general searches are as simple as choosing what to search for between births, marriages and deaths, typing in your surname or the surname of the family you wish to search for followed by the first name then the date range. You can also add districts and counties to the search to narrow it down and speed it up.
The site can be a little slow at times just due to the sheer volume of people using it and the massive data bases it has to search through but bear with it and you will reap the rewards. My tip would be to go on it during the morning or early afternoon if you can because it tends to be quicker at these times of day, once early evening hits it slows down quite dramatically!
There are many different Internet sites which are useful for finding information if you are researching your family tree. One such site is free BMD which as its name suggests is completely free to access and use.
THE OBJECTIVE OF FREE BMD
Free BMD takes its name from the three primary sources of information for anyone researching their family history: birth, marriage and death. In particular this site contains civil registration records of births, marriages and deaths from March 1837 when civil registration became law up to 1984, although its primary objective is to cover the period up to the end of 1910 first, so there only currently a few entries after this date.
It is an immense project which began in 1999 as part of a much larger project with an ultimate aim of publishing the information contained within the records and making them accessible in a single place on the Internet for free.
The larger project includes Freecen, which contains census records for England, Scotland and Wales from 1841-1891, and Freereg, which contains pre-1837 records from the Parish Registers.
All of the records on Free BMD have been added by a dedicated team of volunteers who have painstakingly transcribed the information from the General Registers for Births, Marriages and Deaths.
WHAT ARE THE GENERAL REGISTERS?
The General Registers of Births, Marriages and Deaths are a vast collection of indexes that contain all of the Births, Marriages and Deaths which have taken place in England and Wales since 1837.
In each of the years from 1837 there are three volumes published, these are published in March, June and September. There is a separate volume for each of the categories: Births, Marriages and Deaths, giving a total of nine published registers for each of the years.
Many of the volumes have been copied onto microfiche which are accessible for free at various locations in a non electronic format. e.g. local libraries and family research centres. The original volumes between 1837 and 1983 are held at the Family Records Centre at Myddleton Street in North London, where they can also be viewed in person.
All of these records are the copyright of the Crown and records since 1984 are held by the Public Records Office, which is a Government Office. Since 1984 all civil registration records have been held in a computerised format but this is not yet available to the general public.
The principal aim of the first phase of Free BMD is therefore to make all of the indexes from 1837-1910 available on a fully searchable database for the very first time. This first phase is now almost completed. As of the 31st October 2007 the database contained 140,193,689 individual records, which represents almost 100% of the total records for this period.
WHAT DO THE RECORDS CONTAIN?
The indexes for each quarter are each arranged alphabetically by surname. There is no cross reference between the bride and groom of a marriage and searching for an individual record in the volumes or on microfiche can be a very tedious task.
The index contains the name of the individual, the place of the event and the folio number.
The folio number is the vital piece of information in the indexes as this will then enable you to find the specific certificate relating to this event. It is usually necessary to purchase the actual certificate so you need to be certain that the record you have found is the correct one.
Free BMD groups together all of these records into a fully searchable database for the very first time, saving hours of painstaking manual searching.
LAYOUT OF THE SITE
The Free BMD Website can be found at the following URL address http://www.freebmd.org.uk.
The first impression of this site when you log onto the homepage is that it is quite plain and basic with predominantly black text on a white background.
The main headings on the homepage are however written in red text and enclosed within a box, although it must be said that these do not immediately leap out at you and it is necessary to scroll halfway down the page before you see these headings.
There are five headings in total: Search, View Images, Information, Join BMD, and Transcribers Page.
SEARCHING THE FREE BMD DATABASE
To search the database you simply click on the search heading which takes you to the search page. It is only at this point that you will begin to realise that this database is both ingenious and complex.
The search page contains many different fields. As with any database of this kind the more fields that you complete the narrower and quicker your search will be.
The principal fields are as follows:
Type - Here you choose between: All types, Births, Marriages, Deaths.
Surname - Here you type the surname of the person that you are searching for
First Name - Here you type the first name of the person that you are searching for. If you know that the person had a middle name (or names) you can type the full name here but be wary, as there is a lot of inconsistency on the use of middle names, which can be included, omitted, or sometimes substituted for a letter. See below for further details.
Date Range - Here you can narrow your search between a specific span of years. This is particular useful, and usually essential when searching for a common name, but if the name is more unusual leaving this field blank will search every volume within the database.
Districts - Here you can select either All Districts, or choose a specific district from a drop down list. Holding down the control button will allow you to select more than one district.
Counties - Here you can select either All Counties, or choose a specific county from a drop down list as above. Again holding down the control button will allow you to select more than one district.
Once you have completed the information in the fields clicking on the find button at the bottom of the screen will display your results. The wider your search the slower your search will be and if there are too many records to display then an error message will occur saying that this search is not possible as it will take too long.
The results from your search will display the following information, all arranged by volume, and then alphabetically by surname.
The columns displayed from left to right will be Surname, First Name, District, Volume, Page, and Info. In the far right hand column there may or may not be a symbol displaying a pair of spectacles.
Noting the volume and page number of the record that you are interested in will enable you to apply for that actual certificate via the local district registrar office.
Clicking on the page number will display a list of all of the names of that particular page of the Index. This can be useful since in the case of births, twins are generally listed together so you may instantly discover an extra ancestor that you never knew about. In the case of marriages the other partner of the marriage will also be displayed on this same page, but since there are usually up to eight names per page it may still not give you a conclusive second partner from a marriage.
Clicking on the spectacle symbol if it is available will show you an actual scanned image from the Index itself. This can be useful in eliminating errors.
STRENGTHS & WEAKNESSES OF THE SITE
The main strength of Free BMD is the speed in which it enables you to search for a specific name within multiple volumes of the registers at the same time.
To increase the accuracy of the records that have been added to the database every record is added twice, by two different transcribers. When a record has been added twice the name will appear in a darker bold text and these records can be taken as being more or less correct. If there is a variation of spelling within the name then it will appear in both variations in a lighter font.
The main weakness of the site is that due to the vast number of records and the popularity of the site it was initially very slow, the database has however recently been moved to a new, faster server which will hopefully help to alleviate this problem.
Since the volumes of the General Registers are published quarterly it is worth remembering that an event may not be registered for up to a month or so after it occurred so it may occur in the volume after the one that you would have expected.
TIPS AND TRICKS
Playing around with the database is by far the best way to pick up the little peculiarities that exist within the database. There are however a few useful tips to try.
The most useful of these is the use of wildcards. Wildcards can be either a ? (question mark symbol) or an * (asterix).
A ? can be inserted into a name to represent a single unknown letter. This is useful if you are unsure of the exact spelling of a name. For example typing Elizabeth will find names spelt only this way, whilst typing Eli?abeth will also find Elisabeth, spelt with an S instead of a Z and a popular variation of spelling in the 19th century.
An * can be used to represent a group of unknown letters and is useful to add to the end of names like Ann, where Ann* will also find Anne, Anna. Annabel etc. Inserting an * between a first and surname will find any of those names which also have middle names.
If you find the marriage record for one of your ancestors I would always recommend that you view all of the entries on that page as it is often possible to find the other partner of the marriage through a process of elimination. For example if you know your great grandmother was called Emma, and you find the marriage entry for your great grandfather then amongst the eight names on the same page, there may only be one Emma, which will be the one you are looking for. I have found this process to very useful in finding the maiden names of many of the women in my family tree.
I find Free BMD to be an incredibly useful site. It is completely free to use and since there is no need to register there is no need to worry about being bombarded with unwanted spam junk mail. It can however sometimes be very slow if you are using it in the evening when there are a lot of people on the site so I sometimes go on early in a morning when it is much quicker.
If you are researching your family history or thinking about doing so then this is definitely one of those "must visit frequently" sites which will save you hours of time scrolling through manual records down at your local library.