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