FreeCEN: Taking Another Stride Forward

FreeCEN is undertaking a major project to improve data accuracy and consequently further improve the quality of its search results.

FreeCEN, along with other FreeUKGenealogy projects, has long been regarded by many as providing better quality transcriptions than those from commercial companies. We have a reputation for achieving a very accurate transcription of the censuses.

The new "FreeCEN2" website was launched in 2017 as an enhanced programme to replace "FreeCEN1". It records more detail from the censuses and allows transcribers to work on the 20th century censuses as well as on the 19th century returns.

We're now undertaking a major project to improve searching. This project will have several steps (some recently achieved)

  • The civil parishes as recorded in FreeCEN1 and migrated into FreeCEN2 have been reconciled with the National Archive index. This has removed anomalies and mis-typed entries from our data and therefore markedly improved the results from our current FreeCEN2 searches.
  • FreeCEN2 now matches Place of Birth entries with a Gazetteer that records place names along with their nineteenth century counties, their latitude and longitude, and a link to a source that supports that the place exists or existed. This Gazetteer contains England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland places together with overseas places that have been geolocated by volunteers. This Gazetteer now has over 60,000 worldwide records. Volunteers match places of birth as recorded with the place in the Gazetteer (adding new ones when necessary) and where needed record an alternative correction. Both place names are displayed in the search results.
  • Our next step will be to review over 40 million records imported to FreeCEN2 from FreeCEN1. An automated system will highlight those records that need to be reviewed. Once an alternative place name has been identified it will be propagated to all similar records in the database. All places of birth that can be identified will then have been linked to the Gazetteer. This process will start in the near future.
  • The geolocation of over 60,000 place names in the Gazetteer, linked to each place of birth, will allow FreeCEN to develop new searching capabilities based on latitude and longitude. That means that we will also be able to search around a particular point. It also means that we will be freed from the limitations of text searching for places of birth. A new and improved place of birth search will subsequently be able to be implemented to replace the obsolete search in FreeCEN1.

We'll then look to develop specific search capabilities - such as searching for a person among shipping returns or searching for a person by their occupation.

All of these enhancements will keep Free UK Genealogy, and FreeCEN in particular, as a sought-after alternative to commercial genealogical companies by people researching their family trees. The work by FreeCEN is mainly done by volunteers with transcribing, proofreading, coordinating, data management and system development among their roles. It is only through their support and hard work that FreeCEN has become the high-quality genealogical research tool that it is today. The improvements outlined above will serve to maintain and improve FreeCEN’s well regarded reputation.