04 January 2008

FreeBMD, FreeREG, FreeCEN

Most people who research their family history in England and Wales know about the FreeBMD project, a freely available database of the GRO indexes to civil registrations of births, marriages and deaths. It is nearing completion for the period from the start of civil registration in July 1837 to the start of the First World War. Work to fill in the gaps is continuing and good progress is being made on the later years. As of 15 Dec 2007 FreeBMD contained 142,986,702 distinct records.

Less well known, and much less well advanced is FreeREG, a project to provide free Internet searches of baptism, marriage, and burial records, that have been transcribed from parish and non-conformist registers of the U.K. As of 2 Jan 2008 FreeREG comprised 3,480,627 records (1,914,316 baptisms, 568,089 marriages and 998,222 burials). Quite a few counties have yet to start data abstraction; the most advanced in England and Wales are: Norfolk, Somerset, Lincolnshire, Worcestershire, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire.

A third project, FreeCEN claims 11,446,759 records for England, Wales and Scotland, but that total count may not have been updated in over a year. The project aims to provide a "free-to-view" online searchable database of the 19th century UK census returns. A few counties have nearly 100% coverage, especially for the early years.

You may be surprised to find that FreeREG and FreeCEN contain records of interest to you, its worth checking.

Many people have and are working to abstract or transcribe these records. More are always welcome. Recognition should go to two Canadians of British origin who make major contributions to these projects as co-ordinators: Derek Hopkins for the SCAN2 syndicate under the FreeBMD project; and Kirk Dawson for the project to abstract Norfolk records for FreeREG. Thank you gentlemen.

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