Open Data

Why Open Data?

Free UK Genealogy, the charity which includes FreeBMD, FreeCEN and FreeREG, is using new ideas about data which have developed since the projects began to ensure that our data is more accessible, more usable, and free to use, forever. The current websites are free to use, but there is no guarantee that they will be there in perpetuity. Moving to an Open Data licence makes long-term free access to the data much more likely, in a number of ways:

● We can partner with database and website preservation organisations, so they can seamlessly take on our work, and continue to develop it

● We can have more access to more records

● We can attract funding from those who support Open Data

● Use of our transcriptions will increase, increasing our visibility and thus our sustainability

● The potential to work more closely with Record Offices will be of mutual benefit

Open Data brings benefits to the real owners of our public records – those whose lives are captured in the records, and the wider public.

You can read more about why we have chosen to support Open Data in these articles by Free UK Genealogy Trustees David Mayall - Keeping Our History Free and Jim Killock - Who really owns population and census data: and should commercial use be allowed?

Free UK Genealogy's Open Data Licence

The licence Free UK Genealogy has chosen to use is the Open Database License Version 1.0.  There is a human-readable summary here: http://opendatacommons.org/licenses/odbl/summary/ which contains a link to the actual licence.

Next steps

We are committed to schemes to improve the existing project websites for both their users and those who work on them. The current websites are designed for family historians. We are a registered charity, and free access to data of use to family historians is at the heart of our constitution. However, our websites do not suit all potential users, and opening the data will allow it to be used in many ways that we have not imagined. The current agreements on FreeBMD and FreeCEN are not sufficient to make these databases Open. Use of a standard Open Database licence means our data will be ours to use for our purposes of providing free access to public documents of interest to family historians, forever.

We have begun asking all new volunteer transcribers to read and agree to a Transcription Agreement, which will enable us to share their transcriptions as open data.  Existing and past transcribers who wish to do so will also be able to make their transcriptions open, at the same time. For existing transcribers, there are no plans at present to restrict transcribing to those who have signed the agreement.

If you are a current or past transcriber, and have not been sent a direct email, please contact us, letting us know which projects you worked on. 

We are contacting other potential rights owners, to ask their permission.

We are building a list of those who are interested in using our data.  Access to our data will be prioritised to those who support our mission in one or more ways, for example by providing a new free service to genealogists or by making more data open. 

Further reading

Because Open Data means sharing intellectual property, some documents involve legal terms.  We also use some computing terms to explain the practicalities of data sharing. We have tried to minimise the use of jargon, and are developing a glossary.

We have links to more background documents, and further information here.