BEST FREE DATA­BASES

Jonathan Scott pans for on­line gold in the form of free, vol­un­teer-driven ge­nealog­i­cal data­bases, and picks his top five

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - CONTENTS -

For the pur­poses of this ar­ti­cle we de­cided to steer clear of na­tional repos­i­to­ries, ma­jor ar­chives, cat­a­logues and Fam­i­lySearch when choos­ing the top five free on­line data­bases. While there are hun­dreds of valu­able free data­bases hosted by such bod­ies – the Na­tional Li­brary of Wales pro­bate search ( llgc.org.uk); the Na­tional Li­brary of Ire­land’s Catholic par­ish reg­is­ters ( reg­is­ters. nli.ie); Birm­ing­ham Arch­dioce­san Ar­chives’ on­line in­dex ( www.birm­ing­hamarch­dio­ces an­ar­chives.org.uk) to pick a few ran­dom ex­am­ples – we are try­ing to high­light vol­un­teer-led in­dexes and data­bases that are driven by pas­sion and hard work.

Nev­er­the­less, we have in­cluded lots of use­ful free data­bases pro­vided by in­sti­tu­tions (see ‘More great web­sites’ on p53). And if you know of, or are work­ing on, an on­line data­base that you think de­serves wider cov­er­age, you can post it on our fo­rum ( whodoy­ou­thinky­ouaremagazine.com/ fo­rum/), or tweet us @wdytya­m­agazine.

1Free UK Genealogy www.freeuk­ge­neal­ogy.org.uk

This is the um­brella site for a trio of web­sites that pro­vide vast quan­ti­ties of free data. The trio com­prises freebmd.org.uk ( birth, mar­riage and death in­dexes from 18371983), freecen.org.uk (tran­scribed data from the 1841-1891 cen­suses, ex­clud­ing 1881) and freereg.org.uk (tran­scribed par­ish and non­con­formist data). To­gether they boast around 333 mil­lion BMDs, 38 mil­lion par­ish reg­is­ter events and 32 mil­lion in­di­vid­u­als drawn from cen­sus data – all amassed by vol­un­teers. FreeREG is cur­rently act­ing as the guinea pig for a new de­sign that will even­tu­ally be used on its sis­ter sites.

2On­line Par­ish Clerks www.corn­wall-opc- data­base.org

On­line Par­ish Clerks projects across the UK have been pro­vid­ing ge­nealog­i­cal bread and but­ter for free for the best part of two decades. These county-level vol­un­teers col­lect, col­late and tran­scribe records, usu­ally start­ing with par­ish reg­is­ters but of­ten branch­ing out into other sources. The idea for Corn­wall’s came to Michael McCormick, David Stick and Paul Brewer at the Queens Head, St Stephen in the year 2000. Via Search Data­base you can trawl births, mar­riages, buri­als, banns and more, and via Ex­tra Searches delve into par­ish chest ma­te­rial such as bas­tardy bonds, set­tle­ments and more.

3Jewish Com­mu­ni­ties and Records www.jewishgen.org/ jcr-uk/ in­dex.htm

This is part of a joint- project be­tween the Jewish Ge­nealog­i­cal So­ci­ety of Great Bri­tain and JewishGen. The spe­cific aim is to record de­tails of all Jewish com­mu­ni­ties and con­gre­ga­tions that have ever ex­isted in the UK, Ire­land and Gi­bral­tar. Via the left-hand bar you can click the 1851 An­glo-Jewry Data­base or ‘Other Data­bases’, which leads to var­i­ous burial, mar­riage, nat­u­ral­i­sa­tion, rab­bis and cir­cum­ci­sion data­bases. Through JewishGen it­self you can search the com­bined UK data­base (with over 390,000 records) although you have to reg­is­ter to use it and ad­vanced search op­tions are only avail­able to con­trib­u­tors of $100.

4Fam­i­lies in Bri­tish In­dia So­ci­ety search.fibis.org/ fron­tis/ bin

This thriv­ing so­ci­ety has led the way for decades in terms of the pro­duc­tion of use­ful in­dexes, find­ing aids and vast data­bases. Although the site does lead to many col­lec­tions that are only open to mem­bers, there’s also a host of free datasets that non-mem­bers can use. Much of the ma­te­rial comes from the Bri­tish Li­brary’s In­dia Of­fice Records Sec­tion. FIBIS has also tran­scribed de­tails of over 183,000 in­di­vid­u­als doc­u­mented in var­i­ous ship­ping records – em­barka­tions, dis­em­barka­tions and no­tices of ar­rivals. The site has a sim­ple, wiki-style de­sign, which is ef­fi­cient and easy to use once you’re used to it.

5 Com­mon­wealth War Graves Com­mis­sion www.cwgc.org

The Com­mon­wealth War Graves Com­mis­sion site, which con­tains in­for­ma­tion on about 1.7 mil­lion war dead, across 23,000 lo­ca­tions in 154 coun­tries, is the start­ing point for many peo­ple look­ing into the mil­i­tary ca­reers of fallen sol­diers. There are a num­ber of ways to search the data, but in gen­eral it’s a good idea to start wide – don’t nar­row your search too quickly. Not all the records here con­tain fore­name or mul­ti­ple ini­tials, for ex­am­ple, so in­clud­ing this in­for­ma­tion might lead to an un­suc­cess­ful search. There’s also the IWM’s War Memo­ri­als Reg­is­ter of over 68,000 UK War Memo­ri­als at www.iwm.org.uk/ memo­ri­als/search.

Ri­fle through the free records held in these web re­sources

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