• Free UK Genealogy: 20 Years of FreeBMD Conference 15th September 2018

    FreeBMD is one of the first ever crowdsourcing projects, and 2018 marks 20 years since its inception. It has been extraordinarily useful to researchers since 1998 and is highly regarded in the Genealogy community. We invite you to join us in raising a glass to our oldest project, at our free-to-attend meeting this September.

    FreeUKGEN trustees Graham Hart and Alexandra Eveleigh will speak about FreeBMD (Past, Present and Future), and Crowdsourcing respectively. Also speaking at the event are Audrey Collins of The National Archives, on the General Register Office’s (GRO) Records, and Else Churchill from the Society of Genealogists on the subject of Birth, Marriage and Death: Beyond the GRO Registers.

    Saturday 15th September 2018

    • Arrival for volunteers: from 10.00
    • Arrival for public: from 11.30

    The National Archives, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 4UD

    Not in the UK or can't make it on the day?
    Don't worry, you can watch the live broadcast on our YouTube channel or at any time that suits you.

    For more details see the programme below, or visit our event page: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/free-uk-genealogy-2018-celebrating-20-years-of-freebmd-booking-for-public-tickets-44632682555

  • Keeping mum?

    A few people have contacted us, concerned that the free availability of indexes to births compromises their identity security.

    The widespread use of mothers’ maiden names and dates of birth as passwords (NOT security checks) worries us, too. The problem isn’t particularly that this data is widely available, from numerous sources, the problem is that it is relied upon as a form of password, usually on multiple sites. Long story short: if you have used your mother’s maiden name as a password, or a place name as a password, please CHANGE IT NOW.

    INF3-273 Anti-rumour and careless talk Be like dad - keep Mum

    The source of the misplaced faith that your mother’s maiden name is not easy to discover using a wide variety of means?

    Unfortunately, there used to be a reliance on easy to remember passwords (aka "security questions") such as 'mother's maiden name' and 'place of birth'. This is a dangerous practice, and is not recommended by the government: https://www.cyberaware.gov.uk/passwords. However, despite advice from the Home Office, some companies continue to use them. If one website is hacked, that data becomes associated with your email address and potentially other passwords or personal data. We therefore advise people not to use websites that ask for such information as passwords, and if they still wish to use the website, to use real passwords instead (no one is going to be checking up that DeputyDawg is not your mother’s maiden name / place of birth, except in some very special circumstances), but a strong password, as described in the above link and to use different passwords on each site used.

    If you struggle to remember the dozens of passwords you already have (and the additional dozens created when you change good-old-mum to a number of strong passwords is going to result in a lot more forgotten passwords)there are now a number of password management tools/devices which you could look into. For example, many browsers have a simple tool. However you need to be careful that if they share the passwords with your phone, tablet, or other device that might get stolen or mislaid, that it is protected with a master password or security number (not your year of birth). Alternatively, you can use an online password vault or safe (you just have to remember one password). For added protection, you can encrypt the document you store the passwords in, too.

    Using mother’s maiden name or place of birth in essence creates the same password on multiple websites, (and the fact that it is being used shows they are websites run by companies with little regard for data security), but this is not the only problem: these are both easily found.

    Sometimes, when you’re asked to give your date of birth, this is a legitimate check as to who you are and/or how old you are. For example, if you have an interest in alcoholic drinks and visit a website that promotes one, you may be required to declare that you are legally old enough to drink in your country, and provide your date of birth. I personally feel that it's fine to answer that you were born on 5 June 1952 when in fact you were born on the 5 February 1955 in these circumstances. Sometimes it is used to check that you are you, not another Jo Smith - for example at every stage during a medical procedure where one patient can get substituted with another by accident. This seems to me to be reasonable - the identification does need to be something that will be memorable without recourse to a computer, and memorable when one is perhaps very ill and confused.

    Rarely are dates/places of birth, or mothers’ maiden names truly used for security purposes (as opposed to as pseudo-passwords). The last time I can remember being asked for genealogical data was on an application for a visa for India a couple of years ago. The Index information on FreeBMD and in other search engines which can be searched for a fee (or for free in many libraries) is actually not very useful on its own for answering such questions - one of my grandmothers, for example, was born in a small Northamptonshire village - and that is the answer I (correctly) put on the form. But the place name in the index is not the birth town/village: it is the Registration District for that place - which can even be a location in the next county. While more recent registrations contain the full date of birth, most are only identified by quarter of registration. Since the parents have 42 days to register a birth, it is not uncommon for the birth to be registered in the following quarter. So FreeBMD was no help for filling in the visa application in this area either.

    I would like to reassure you that the data we show to the public is not behind a sign-in or paywall, and we intend to keep it this way because it is public data, which we make freely available to achieve our aims as a charity. Those who give us permission to transcribe are free to put restrictions on access to the index and transcriptions, which we always honour by not showing the data until the date specified / time elapsed required. For FreeBMD, this permission is given by the Government.

    Liability disclaimer: The above advice is based upon that given in https://www.cyberaware.gov.uk/, and you should check this or similar resources.  We have not investigated the advice given by this website, and you should not rely on the information as we have presented it here and can take no responsibility for any loss that results.

  • FreeUKGEN Trustee News

    A warm welcome to our new trustees!

    We are delighted to introduce the newest members of our Board of Trustees.

    Giorgio Abraini has been with us for almost a year, and has given Free UK Genealogy the great benefit of his background in finance and economics.

    More recently, we have appointed Andrew Turvey, Alexandra Eveleigh, and Linda Baines to the board.

    Andrew has a background in accounting and risk management and has been a keen family historian for over 30 years. He is passionate about Open Data, being a founding trustee of Wikimedia UK, the charity that promotes and supports the Wikipedia family of websites within the UK. 

    Alexandra is a professional archivist by background and currently Collections Information Manager at Wellcome Collection in London, UK where her role complements her research interests in public participation in library, archive and museum contexts.

    Linda is an independent researcher, who previously worked as a senior manager for a public sector science and technology organisation.

    We are pleased to be able to further develop the range of skills and experience for the successful management and sustainability of the organisation.

  • Married couple transcribe more than a million records in FreeREG

    Volunteers' Week 2018

    It's Volunteers' Week 2018, and we're celebrating the fantastic achievement of our dedicated transcribers! 

    Married couple Maureen and Stuart Tokely, who live in Australia, have been transcribing for Norfolk since Sep 2007 and have recently passed one million records between them. Their transcriptions account for nearly one sixth of all of the Norfolk records. 

    Here, Stuart tells us about their experiences transcribing for their 'home' county.

    Maureen and Stuart Tokely (c)

    Although we now live in Melbourne, I was Norwich born and bred and Maureen moved down from Sunderland when she was about 9 months old so I suppose we could call her an adopted Norfolk Dumpling!  We emigrated with our children in 1974 and although we are now naturalised Australians, I like to think like Nelson, who famously said "I am a Norfolk man and glory in being so."

    Through transcribing for FreeREG, it is amazing how much we have learnt about a county which I thought I know inside out.  I regularly ask "Where on earth is that?" and have to refer to maps to locate villages I have never heard of.  We have a copy of White's Norfolk 1891 which belonged to my great grandmother and also a copy of White's 1845 which we bought on our last visit to Norwich.  We regularly refer to these and find many fascinating historical facts about the towns and villages in Norfolk that we were unaware of.

    Maureen and Stuart are the strong foundation of the success of FreeREG in Norfolk.

    Norfolk Coordinator, Julie Harold

    Maureen told us that Stuart has more time to transcribe for FreeREG: "While I cook, clean and bottle wash, Stuart sits there and transcribes but at least it keeps him out of my hair!"

    They hope to continue as transcribers for many years yet, but are dreading the day when Norfolk is 'done and dusted'.  Stuart says "I suppose we could always help with another county but it would not be the same as dealing with our 'home' county".

    Here at Free UK Genealogy, we are incredibly fortunate to have so many active transcribers enabling us to make more family history records available for free on our websites.

    To all of our volunteers, we send a huge vote of thanks this Volunteers Week!