• Get Closer to Your Family Whilst Physically Distancing (Part Two)

    Following activities 1-5  of this post, here are the last 5 things you can do to bring your family into focus at this time of being physically distant. We hope you enjoyed the conversation starters to get your relatives sharing their memories and that you're ready to dive a bit deeper into your family history!

    6) Look everybody up on FreeREG

    When the FreeREG project started with the ambition of transcribing all the Church of England registers from before civil registration began in 1837 (or later) it soon expanded to include registers of baptism, marriage and burial from other religious and secular organisations. The registers often contain information which is not available from the FreeBMD indexes.

    Been there, done that? 

    Try again - we are adding records all the time.  And use the new 'Unique Names' feature to see if Great Uncle Jonathan can’t be found because his name was misspelt.

    7) Call people again

    Now you have more information, call everybody again. You can ask more questions and check your research against people's memories.

    Been there, done that?  

    Use social media to see if anyone recalls deceased members of your family, or see if there is anything online about a school or other institution your ancestors were associated with. Famous ancestor? Make sure the Wikipedia article links to them on Wikitree or other publically available family tree. Check the Guild of One Name Studies to see if there are others researching the same name.

    8) Getting on a bit? Censuses are your friend!

    You may by now have people in your tree born more than 100 years ago. Three free resources you can use to find out more for people born before 1920:

    FreeCEN (if born 1891 or earlier). While not complete, the transcriptions are of high quality, and lots of detail is given that you may not find on other free websites, and the search engine is great if you are looking for more common names.

    FamilySearch (if born 1911 or earlier). More complete than FreeCEN, but the transcriptions do not give all the detail.

    Similar to a census, the 1939 Register basic search is free but after that, behind a paywall - make a note as you can often get free access at a public library, and you can visit once social contact is again possible.

    Been there, done that? 

    Use the census information (and information from civil and other registrations) to look deeper at the lives of your ancestors - the local museums and parishes and towns where they lived often have great resources, trade associations and professions and often have fascinating websites.

    9) Remember those who went before

    Whether you are an old hand, or new to family history, if you are still able to get out of the house (but need to keep in the open and away from others) you might like to visit graveyards that you’ve identified could commemorate your ancestors; you may find further information there. 

    You can ask others to go look on your behalf if you can’t get out, or by contacting relatives and friends living locally. Or you can answer requests from others, or record the graveyard on FindAGrave.

    You can also remember people by celebrating their birthday or marriage anniversary - perhaps via social media, perhaps by doing a little deeper research into their lives.

    10) Giving something back

    We’ve already mentioned a few ways you can support others interested in family history.  We hope that you have found the high-quality transcriptions on our websites FreeBMD, FreeREG and FreeCEN useful, and would love to have you as a volunteer. There are vacancies for transcribers on all three projects (at all skill levels). We also have vacancies for people to work on help pages (editing, or proofreading or using html), and a great need for Ruby on Rails, MongoDB, MySQL and HTML/CSS developers. Or you could make a financial donation to our work: £5 helps us get almost 400 extra records in our databases and £30 runs our servers for one day.

    If you have suggestions for improvements to these activities, or any others, please let us know in the comments.

  • Get Closer to Your Family Whilst Physically Distant (Part One)

    As many of us around the world are in quarantine, self-isolating, or reducing our social contacts due to Covid-19, it seems a good time to talk about family history as something to do which keeps people in touch and is a source of new friendships while not needing anything other than an internet connection and smartphone, tablet or computer (and possibly a pencil, eraser and some paper).  

    We've written a guide, with 10 things to do if you have never thought about family history before, with alternative things to do if you are more - or very - experienced. Here, in Part One, we share the first five. Part Two is coming soon.

    1) Talk to older people in your family

    Give the older people in your family a phone call. We’ve put together some questions you could ask; probably over a lot of calls.
    Remember to ask for the names and numbers of others you could call. As well as talking to members of the older generation, try seeking out cousins and others more distant to your family: ask them what they remember of their parents and their grandparents, as this can be helpful with your tree too.
    If you’re adopted and are interested in your birth family history we have some  links to resources here which will help you make a start.

    Been there, done that?
    It’s worth going back to immediate family with additional questions. There are some suggestions here https://eu.tennessean.com/story/life/shopping/ms-cheap/2017/04/26/20-questions-100-year-old-nashville-lady/100558152/ and here

    2) Write down what you find out

    You may find it helpful to make a recording of your phone calls so you can write down what you learned for clarification, or go back to it at a later date. If you speak to your relatives by video call you can use a free recording service, like Loom.com, to record both the video and audio of your conversations. Otherwise, you can take notes as you go.

    Been there, done that?
    Are your notes perfectly organised? Do others know what they are, and where they are? If password protected, do they know where your passwords are? Do others know what you wish to be done with your research materials, should you not have the opportunity to pass them on yourself?

    3) Draw a traditional family tree

    A 'skeleton' tree with very basic information under each name can help you with the future phone calls. For example if someone mentions the name John you can ask is that John the son of Richard or John who was Richard’s brother? 

    Been there, done that?
    Have you identified all those who share a great-grandparent with you? Get in touch to see what your cousins know about the past, find out more about their lives, and ask if they’ve had a DNA test (many younger people take them now to find out health information, or to look at their deep ancestry).

    4) Check what you know

    (and what you find out)

    If the people on your tree come from England or Wales, the easiest place to check details is on FreeBMD. At the moment, FreeBMD has data up to 1990, and back to 1837. It doesn't give you a precise date of birth and if someone was born married or died late in the year, the event may not have been registered until the following year. But a check on FreeBMD will confirm what you have been told.

    FreeBMD will also tell you which registration District the event took place in. This may not be the place you were told - a registration District may include many towns and villages. Or your relative may have been born, married or died in a hospital some distance from where they lived. Many mothers went back to have a child in their mother's household.

    Copy and paste the citation from FreeBMD into a document together with the name of the person, District and reference.

    There are also BMD records available for Scotland, Ireland, Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.

    www.familysearch.org has records from around the world. Check out the wiki about places to find out more about the records available in the country/region you're interested in.

    Been there, done that?
    Post the contents of your certificates as Postems on FreeBMD so others don't have to pay. If you've had to buy a certificate and it turns out not to be your relative, their relatives can benefit, and you might meet new cousins through the certificates of your relatives.

    5. Put what you know on Wikitree

    We particularly recommend Wikitree because it has online training in family history. You may wish to join a specialist project team where you can get additional support on a particular area of interest (such as Scottish ancestors) and help to make others’ work more useful. Remember to mark yourself, and other living persons as private.

    Wikitree's welcome page for those stuck at home looking for a diversion.

    If Wikitree isn’t for you, FamilySearch.org is a good alternative; the mobile app is very nifty!

    Been there, done that?
    Keep your skills sharp by answering questions in the Wikitree Genealogist to Genealogist forum or Genealogy StackExchange.
  • Join our 'Brick Wall SWAT Team'

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

    Can you spend some time on Saturday March 7th, and in the run-up, to help researchers break down their brick walls with our records?

    Do you love donning your detective hat to help people push their family trees back a generation? We're holding a 'Genealo-thon' on Saturday the 7th March, for Open Data Day 2020 (link opens in new tab) and are looking for a team of 'Brick-Wall-Bashers' to use the records in FreeBMD, FreeCEN and FreeREG to help break down some of our researchers' brick walls.

    Things to note: 

    • You do not have to be a Free UK Genealogy volunteer to join the Brick Wall SWAT Team.
    • We will attempt a manageable number of cases. 
    • Help is provided on a voluntary basis and dependent upon the records we have available in our databases. 
    • While we will do our best, success cannot be guaranteed and we reserve the right not to progress any question which has insufficent information.

    If you have the time, family history experience, and knowledge of how to use our websites, please register to help using the form below.

    There's more information about the challenge here: https://www.freeukgenealogy.or... but iIf you have any questions, send them to info@freeukgenealogy.org.uk

  • Brick Wall Challenge: Open Data Day 2020

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


    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/