• Brick Wall Challenge: Open Data Day 2020

    We have been inundated with responses so have closed for this year.

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    We're holding a 'Genealo-thon' on Saturday the 7th March, using our records to help break down your brick walls.

    Why not get some fresh eyes on your Brick Wall Ancestor? This year for Open Data Day we're hosting a Brick Wall Challenge! Send us as much information as you have on your 'brick wall' ancestor (BWA) and the Free UK Genealogy community will try to help you push that ancestral line back a generation using our freely available Open Data.

    Use the form below to tell us as much as you can about your BWA and if your application is progressed we will be in touch!

    When sending us a FamilySearch tree link, please make sure the focus is on your brick wall ancestor, or other ancestor; if it is on yourself, we won't be able to view your tree.

    If you'd like to be involved from the other side, to help break down the Brick Walls, this is the page for you: https://www.freeukgenealogy.org.uk/news/2020/02/14/brick-wall-team/

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Two New Features for FreeREG and FreeCEN

    Free UK Genealogy is proud to announce two new features to assist our users.

    FreeCEN (with free access to high quality transcriptions of nineteenth century British censuses) and FreeREG (with high quality transcriptions of registrations of baptism, marriage and burials) now have "friendly" permanent URLs to their records.  

    Records in FreeBMDwhich covers the civil registrations of birth, marriage and death in England and Wales has permanent URLs that you can copy and paste from the “info” page. 

    For FreeREG and FreeCEN, the URL displayed in the address bar of a detailed search results page will always take you back to that detailed search results page. There is a snippet of information in the "friendly" URL which will enable researchers to identify which URL belongs to which person's record.

    Snip of FreeCEN highlighting location of the address bar and URL


    The second new feature makes use of permanent URLs: if you want to cite a FreeCEN or FreeREG transcription in your family tree/academic work or take a note of a record of interest to return to it later, now you can do so using the Citation Generator button. This is located on the far right of the row of buttons after "Next Dwelling" and "New Search" on FreeCEN, and next to the "Export as JSON" button on FreeREG. Clicking there, you get a choice of which format of citation you want to use. As the generator uses the permanent URLs, it means you will always be able to go back to the record without having to search for it again.


    These new features have been brought to you by our team of volunteer developers, and in the case of the citation generator, by Sudaraka Jayathilaka who developed this feature as an intern working with us as part of the Google Summer of Code programme. Google Summer of Code is a global programme that brings student developers into open source software development. Students work with an open source organisation on a 3 month programming project during their break from college or university. Sudaraka has written about his experience on his blog

    If you are interested in developing your programming skills, please consider volunteering with us.