The Local BMD Project
Over the last few years family historians in a growing number of counties and regions
within the country have
been working with their local Register Office staff to create on-line indexes. Each has
been managed separately and an indication of the success of the project can be seen
by the fact that there
are now over 40 million records on-line under the Local BMD banner. The aim now is to
encourage family historians in the rest of the country to join this project and begin working with
their local register offices to put original birth, marriage and death indexes on-line.
Below you will find :
- A brief history of the project,
- The planned future for the project
- A request for volunteers.
- Contact details.
The start of UKBMD website and the Local BMD Project.
In 1837 registration of births, marriages and deaths in England and Wales began, however this did not become compulsory until 1875 with the Births and Deaths Registration Act. In Scotland such registration became compulsory for all in 1855 and for Ireland it was 1864 for births & deaths and 1845 for marriages.
Since 2000 a growing number of Family History Societies have been working with their local Register Offices to place indexes to births, marriages and deaths on-line. These are commonly known as Local BMD indexes. Cheshire was the first county to do this, closely followed by Yorkshire then Lancashire. At the time of writing, there are 11 areas of the country that have some indexes on-line in various stages of completion using the software we initially developed for Cheshire, now known as the Local BMD project software.
Local BMD or GRO BMD - there's a difference!
Each quarter these original local BMD indexes were re-transcribed and sent to the General Register Office (GRO) in London, where they were re-indexed into a national catalogue. The latter have been made available to the public as the GRO (General Register Office) indexes. However, the simple act of making this secondary GRO copy introduced many errors and omissions. Several websites have placed these indexes (based on this secondary data) online, for example FreeBMD.org.uk , TheGenealogist.co.uk , FindMyPast.co.uk and Ancestry.co.uk . See the GRO BMD page for a full set of links.
However these sites cannot fill in the gaps or amend errors made by the creation of the flawed GRO indexes. A study on the extent of the errors and omissions was written by Michael Foster and he has produced two volumes "A Comedy of Errors" and "A Comedy of Errors. Act II" which may still be purchased.
As family historians we would always recommend looking at the original data first, i.e. use the local indexes and refer to the original local registers before looking at the GRO copies.
As the local register offices' indexes are based on the original registers the problems highlighted with the GRO indexes above are greatly reduced.
After the first few BMD sites became available on the web the UKBMD website was set up as a set of links to all the known BMD sites. One of the aims was to make finding these sites easier so that family historians would not have to remember all the individual website addresses, but a side effect of placing links to all the BMD sites in one place was that it became obvious that all the sites should be searchable at one go. Hence the Multi-region search feature was created. All the Local BMD based sites can be searched at once by following the Multi-region Search link at the top of the list on the Local BMD page within this website.
A Future for the Local BMD Project
The software created initially for the Cheshire BMD website has become known as the Local BMD software. It is a complete suite of programs for checking and managing a BMD website. Development of this software continues with the aim of making it easier to use with each version. The software is free for any society or organisation to use, on the sole condition that no charges are made for searching. I.e. the website must be free to use. (Obviously the government's statutory fee for certificate applications cannot be avoided.)
Our aim now is roll out the project nationally and invite family history societies in all parts of the England and Wales to take part in this project. Obviously this will require the cooperation of your local registrar, but most are happy to become involved when they see the benefits - financial and time saving.
Currently each website is financed independently, for example Cheshire BMD is paid for by hosting it along side of the main FHS-Cheshire website at no extra cost. When sufficient numbers of societies are involved in the project then economies of scale would make it feasible to share web servers reducing the cost and improving the server response.
The ideal basis for a Local BMD site is that it should cover each registration district within a pre-1974 county boundary. This to some extent mirrors the organisation of family history societies. Where a county is represented by a single society, then it would be appropriate for that society to establish and undertake the project. In counties which are represented by more than one society, it is an excellent opportunity for societies to work together, with one society taking an overall management role.
A Local BMD project would not be dissimilar to other projects undertaken by any society in that it would require a project manager to look after the project as a whole and volunteers willing to act as local coordinators and transcribers. Where technical skills exist, the final Local BMD website can be managed by the local society, but if this is beyond their current skills then central management of the BMD site is available. For the larger counties it is a great opportunity to work with neighbouring societies.
Several local authorities have produced their own BMD websites. These are of independent design and have fewer features than the Local BMD software. They are incompatible in so far as inclusion in multi-region searches is concerned, although it is quite possible that the underlying data could be transferred to a Local BMD database. We will be inviting these local authorities to participate in the Local BMD project so that everyone will benefit from a consistent style and functionality, along with the multi-region search capability.
To see the full set of features we recommend that you visit one of the BMD sites, e.g. the Bath BMD site at http://www.BathBMD.org.uk/
Highlights of the features on the websites are:
- Full coverage pages allowing you to see the content and the transcription progress.
- Latest updates page, giving a quick glance view of the latest additions.
- Births : where available to the transcribers, the mother's maiden name has been added from 1837 through to current year.
- Marriages : pairing husband and wife in full and naming the church or venue, 1837 through to modern times.
- Deaths : where available to the transcribers, the age at death has been added, 1837 through to modern times.
Can you volunteer to help?
To take the project forward the Local BMD Project needs a range of volunteers: from representatives, local and regional coordinators and, of course, transcribers. People skilled in website development or management would also find their skills greatly appreciated.
Project Management activities may include:
- Managing contacts with register offices
- Managing contacts with family history societies
- Recruiting and Coordinating volunteers
Website Management activities may include:
- Data processing of transcribed data
- Web page management of the various informational pages
- Uploading of new data
Promotional activities may include:
- Promotion of the sites through the family history press
- Promotion through blogs and online newsletters
- Promotion among societies which do not yet participate
- Promotion among Register Offices which do not yet participate
- Delivering presentations at appropriate events
- Staffing an information stand at fairs and other events
The aim now is to place the project - which is supported by the
Federation of Family History Societies
- on a more formal footing.
The long term development of the project will be in the hands of the project team, so this is an opportunity to influence the running and direction of how the original local BMD records are managed and placed online.
If you would like more information please send an e-mail via this link indicating which activities you would like to volunteer for and we will get back to you as soon as we can: