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ARTICLE: Online Research


  • Online Research

    online_new.jpgThese days, the advent of the Internet and digital resources has enabled family historians to carry out much of their initial research online.

    This guide aims to give an outline of the main resources available and "Hints and Tips" based on how some of the members have carried out their own research online. There are a number of useful sites available and knowing which to use and how to use them effectively can be confusing. Which sites to use can depend on a number of factors. A brief overview of the popular sites is shown below.

    The site listings are not exhaustive and their descriptions are not comprehensive as space is limited, but a visit to the sites mentioned will reveal more information.

    Trying to find specific records can sometimes seem impossible, but the screenshot examples in this section explain how to search for a birth record or locate a missing family in the census. The examples given are based on actual searches and demonstrate how researchers have found the results they needed to continue with their trees.

    free2.pngFamily Search (LDS) A completely free site operated by the Church of the Latter Day Saints (LDS). The 1881 census and both pre- and post-civil registration data can be found. The database is far from complete, however, and submitted entries must be treated with caution until verified against the original records. Extracted records are more reliable but again should be verified as correct. The Research Help on Family Search is a useful section too. This gives you links to sources of information from all over the world.

    38 FamilySearch Search Tips: Find Free Genealogy Records Online - free eBook etc.

    free.pngFree BMD Free site covering England and Wales birth, marriage and death records. Although incomplete, it is useful for records from 1837 to around 1940, with more results being added on a regular basis. It also gives reference numbers to use for ordering certificates from the General Register Office, and scans of the index allow you to verify the entry. Marriage results also list the spouse, which is a useful feature that other sites lack.

    free.pngFreeCen is the third of the free sites (Free BMD and FreeReg being the other partner sites). FreeCen has transcriptions of census records but no images, again coverage is improving with regular updates as more volunteer transcribers contribute to the project. The site covers England, Wales and Scotland. One major benefit of the site is that it allows another source of searches which can be used to find ancestors and helps locate references and other information that can be used to locate census images from other online sites.

    free.pngFreeReg Another free site, operated on the same basis as Free BMD, which has an increasing number of transcribed parish records, again regular updates are made to the site (roughly one a month) although there are no images available the site is a useful resource and coverage is increasing all the time.

    free.pngUKBMD Project Free sites for many English counties, searchable birth, marriage and death database. Reference numbers and links to local Register Offices allow you to locate bmd events and order certificates from the local registrars. The sites are volunteer projects and updated regularly; well worth a visit to see how well your county interests are covered.

    Subscription sites

    Ancestry Access to England and Wales birth, marriage and death index from 1837-2004 Pay-per-view (PPV) and subscription packages allow access to a variety of records including bmd, census, a partial parish and probate index, some military and passenger lists, directories and much more. Too much to list in the space available. The tree builder and 1881 census sections of the site are available without a subscription. The Scottish census records are transcriptions only, Scottish census images cannot be viewed on the Ancestry website.Family Relatives Pay-per-view (PPV) or subscription available. Contains BMDs, WW1 and WW2 military records (death indexes), Phillimore Marriage parish registers. Overseas BMDs available free.

    Findmypast (Previously Called 1837 Online) Pay-per-view site (PPV), or subscription packages available. Comprehensive birth, marriage and death index, plus census details are available along with migration and military sections, parish records, death duty registers, etc. Again there is too much to list in the space available. FMP is also the first site to have the 1911 England and Wales census available as part of a larger record database.

    FTF GUIDE: Searching findmypast (2014)

    In 2014, the site underwent a major upgrade. This necessitated the introduction of a new way of searching the records and these pages are intended to give some ideas of how to go about searching the site. As the findmypast site continues to develop, we will endeavour to keep the pages up to date, but the underlying principles remain the same.

    ScotlandsPeople and The Genealogist Different levels of subscription (Fair use policy applies). Databases include complete birth, marriage and death records index, military WW1 WW2 Rolls of honour, census transcripts, parish records and non-conformist records, directories, landowner records, PCC Wills index (with images) and more.

    The National Archives

    Offers a more comprehensive collection than the recently withdrawn A2A website. The free search facility can be used to locate which records office(s) may hold records of your ancestors, in addition some documents such as pre-1858 wills and many medal cards can be downloaded from the site for a modest charge. The site is fully searchable and has online research guides for specific subjects.

    Recently some sites have evolved where unwanted or transcribed documents have been placed online, the number of documents may not be huge but as the sites become more popular they can be a useful source of documents such as certificates or probate transcriptions. It is worth having a look at the sites (registration may be required), on a regular basis as members submit new information almost continuously.

    Will Transcriptions contains transcriptions of probate documents. Searches can be made by county or by alphabetical surname listings. The site is still relatively new so the quantity of entries is fairly small but submitted record sites such as this can grow to have a large collection.

    General Hints & Tips For Online SearchingFamily History Detectives - Step by Step GuidesSearching for Hatches, Matches And DispatchesOther Resources

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  • Research Guides
    by Caroline

    The table below gives links to the pages of advice in the Reference Library for specific research areas.

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    Registered members will be able to comment below the relevant page but non-members can contact us through Contact Us. ...
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