• Accessibility Improvements: New Colours For FreeCEN & FreeREG

    In the summer of 2016, Free UK Genealogy began a journey to make all of our websites accessible to a minimum AA standard of W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1. People may struggle to access our services due to advancing age, long-term health issues, and/or disability, which can often make access difficult or impossible. We're committed to removing all barriers to access of family history information and so we arranged for our most newly-developed website at the time, FreeREG, to undergo accessibility testing at The Shaw Trust (you can read about that here, in our News article)

    A few weeks later, we received the report which told us what we already knew: users with accessibility issues found it difficult or impossible to use our websites, even with assistive technologies. So we set to work to make the improvements required, with the vast majority of it being done by our volunteers. 

    One of the biggest jobs to come out of the audit was the insufficient colour contrast. The report stated:

    The combination of text and background colour should be set to create an easy to read website. Using colours that are similar for the background and foreground can cause blocks of text to become difficult to read.

    If the text size is at least 18 point if not bold and 14 point if bold, the minimum colour contrast ratio should be at least 3:1, if the text is less than 18 point if not bold and less than 14 point if bold, the minimum colour contrast ratio should be at least 4.5:1.

    Throughout the site there are combinations of colours that fall below the minimum contrast levels that make the text difficult to read.

    “There are instances where the text is made harder to read because of the colour combination used on the website when reading and hovering the mouse over certain links.”
    (Colour contrast tester)

    The new Free UK Genealogy logos

    It’s taken us longer than we would have liked, but we recently released the new colours on FreeREG and FreeCEN, and the new FreeBMD website (FreeBMD2) will also be part of this new suite. Alongside the design colours changing we’ve also made the font heavier, as the text being to light and difficult to read was a complaint we frequently heard from our users. We hope that these advances provide genealogists using our websites with a more enjoyable research experience!

    Visit FreeCEN and FreeREG now, to see these improvements and let us know what you think via the Contact Us link in the footer.

  • Update on the 'New' FreeCEN Website

    The new FreeCEN website went live in July 2017 and has recently undergone an accessibility-driven aesthetic revamp. The release of the new colour suite across FreeCEN (pictured below), FreeREG, and the new FreeBMD website (FreeBMD2) currently in development represents many months of hard work and dedication applied by the Free UK Genealogy Volunteer Development Team. However, since we unveiled what was initially known as FreeCEN2, we've been making improvements and adding new features to enhance researchers' experience. 

    FreeCEN's new colours and darker, more visible text

    What's been improved so far?

    We knew what we needed to improve because users of the new website were invited to give us feedback via a survey. Hundreds of responses came in, with many of you asking for certain features that you find useful in the original FreeCEN website as well as helping us identify bugs that we were then able to fix, including table layout issues and ads obscuring page text.

    Other work (including changes required for GDPR and development of the new FreeBMD website - FreeBMD2) has affected our capacity to be able to develop many of the the search features you asked for on FreeCEN2. We're now able to turn our attention to these improvements, and in the last few weeks we've addressed another major accessibility issue you told us about: the formerly light, spindly text on our 2nd generation search websites is now a heavier weight. This website (www.freeukgenealogy.org.uk) is yet to undergo this font change, and you can see the contrast below.

    Comparison of new darker text and former 'light' text.

    Users often request that we make it possible for them to be able to easily differentiate between the rows in the list of search results, and see which records they've viewed out of the list. This has been recently achieved, by numbering each record/row and the word 'Seen'  being displayed below records viewed when the 'Back to Results' button is used in that session (this disappears when the search is performed again or a new search is done).

    Example of numbered rows and 'Seen' on viewed records

    What features are in the pipeline?

    We're now making the search features a priority on FreeCEN, and plan to add the ability to:

    • search by address
    • search all of a country
    • search without inputting county
    • search by area/'place'
    • search by folio, page etc
    • search by occupation
    • search multiple census years
    • free text place name search

    ...amongst other features.

    We know many of you will be disappointed that improvements to the searches related to place are quite limited. This has turned out to be a set of very complex problems - caused by the changing names and boundaries of the Registration Districts, the fact that Registration Districts sometimes cross county boundaries, the changing definition of places such as "London" over the last 250 years, and the variants of the way places were spelled. While we work out solutions, you will be able to use a free text place name search which will help.

  • A Fashionable Marriage

    123 years ago today, on Wednesday 22 July 1896 at St Marks church in Lincoln Road, Peterborough, Northamptonshire there was a marriage between Hamlet De Wet and Mabel Langton. They both have interesting backgrounds. 

    Their families are well documented on the internet. They do not have obvious connections with Peterborough, therefore the choice of this particular church is surprising. Additionally, the St Mark's parish was created with the rapid growth in population following the arrival of the railways.

    This "Fashionable Marriage" was reported in Lincolnshire and Yorkshire newspapers. From these reports we learn the following: 

    At St Mark's Church, Peterborough, Mabel Katherine, eldest daughter of Mr Bennet Langton, of Langton Hall, Spilsby, Lincolnshire, was married to Mr Hamlet de Wet, of Kidderminster, second son of Major de Wet, of the Madras Native Infantry. The officiating clergy were Rev. T. Church, vicar of St George's, Kidderminster, and the Rev. B. de M. Egerton, vicar of St Mark's, Peterborough. The bride wore a white satin dress by Worth, with Brussels lace shirt and corded train and tulle veil (fastened by a diamond crescent, the gift of the bridegroom), and coronet of orange blossoms and white heather and myrtle. Mr Bennet Langton, brother of the bride, was best man, and Miss Langton, the bride's sister attended the bride. 

    St. Mark's Church, Peterborough © Paul Bryan | CC BY 2.0

    The reports do not specify the sister's name but their marriage is recorded on FreeREG - and Lucy Katharine Langton is one of the witnesses. 

    Langton by Spilsby (sometimes also known as Langton by Partney) is in the Lincolnshire Wolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, 55 miles from Peterborough. The Langton family has owned this village since at least the twelfth century and apparently still has very close links with it today. 

    Notable Langtons from Langton include Bennet Langton (1737-1801) a friend of Dr. Samuel Johnson.  Also Rev Charles Langton (1803 – 1886) married Charlotte in 1832, the third daughter of Josiah Wedgwood, the master potter. Charlotte died in 1862 and Charles married Emily, the sister of Charles Darwin, the naturalist, the following year.

    The bride was Mabel Marion Katharine Burton Langton, born 1866 in Langton. Her parents were Bennet Rothes Langton, landowner and Justice of the Peace, and Lucy Katharine Burton. Langton Hall had been twice destroyed by fire before the last Hall was erected by Bennet Rothes Langton in the 1860s.

    Engraving of Langton Hall, 1805

    Langton Hall (before being destroyed by fire in 1817). By Batholomew Howlett - A selection of Views in the county of Lincoln 1805, Public Domain.

    Dublin-born Hamlet Robert De Wet is recorded as living in Kidderminster, some 100 miles from Peterborough. His father Oloff Godlieb De Wet died in early 1894 aged 75, two years before this marriage. Born in Cape Town, South Africa, Oloff was a Major in the Madras Native Infantry. Hamlet's brother Thomas was a Senior British Officer in the Royal Navy. Another notable relative was Hugh de Wet, nephew of Hamlet and son of Thomas. This remarkable man was featured on the BBC programme This Is Your Life in 1956.

    During the Second World War, Hugh worked in France as a secret agent. He was arrested by the Gestapo and held in solitary confinement for six years, under sentence of death.

    There are several references to him on the internet. Below are two interesting links.

    http://www.bigredbook.info/hugh_oloff_de_wet.html 

    https://www.genza.org.za/index...

    At the time of the 1901 Census, our couple were living in Worcester, Hamlet was Manager of the National Telephone Company. Ten years later, the 1911 Census has the couple living in Filey, Yorkshire and confirmed that they were both living by "Private Means". The couple died in Norfolk in the 1930s.

    Outside the church of Saints Peter and Paul, in Langton by Partney are monuments to Bennett Rothes Langton (1840-1925), Lucy Katherine Langton (1840-1924) and Mabel M K B DeWet (1866-1934).

    Article written by Ian Slater, FreeREG volunteer.