Are you researching your roots in England and Wales? Then there are two very helpful websites with free databases that you need to be using.
I have used the website FreeBMD for some time with good results. Here you will find transcriptions of the Civil Registration index (GRO Index) of births, marriages and deaths for England and Wales. As of May 2011, there were more than 200 million distinct records in the database that you can search for free. This large number of records means you have a good chance of finding what you are seeking.
Civil Registration started in 1837 so there are no earlier records in its database. And the site does not have scans of the original documents themselves, but does provide the details you need to order copies of your ancestors’ original birth, marriage and death records from the General Registration Office (GRO) here. Learn more about FreeBMD by reading its FAQs here.
An important companion to FreeBMD is the website FreeREG where you can find baptism, marriage, and burial records transcribed from parish and non-conformist registers in the U.K. As of June 1, 2011, the database had some 15 million records that you can search for free. FreeREG states that it is a “finding tool” and you should always review the original parish record in person or via microfilm, for example.
I am currently researching my BOOTH ancestors of northern Shropshire, England. My third great-grandfather, Joseph Booth, reported in census and other documents that he was born in Shakeford, a small village or hamlet south of Market Drayton. When he married a second time, on 12 April 1863, his marriage certificate states that his father was George Booth, a farmer.
Who was George Booth? I have found a 1794 marriage record and an 1845 death record for a George Booth in Market Drayton who may be my fourth great-grandfather, although these are unconfirmed. But when using FreeREG recently, I found a record that seems likely to be for the right George Booth. The baptism record dated 5 Aug 1795 at St. Mary’s Church in Market Drayton is for Mary Booth, daughter of George Booth of Shakerford, quite likely Shakeford.
Now I have two records pointing to a Booth family in Shakeford, Shropshire, in the relevant time period. Joseph was born about 1808 according to family and census records. This inspires me to keep searching, and to order the microfilms for St. Mary’s Church, to look at the records myself. I would love to add another generation to my Booth ancestral line.
The third in this volunteer-driven system of databases is the website FreeCEN which has census transcriptions for 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881 and 1891. Many counties are far from complete, however, but it is another free resource to use in your search for your ancestors. It might have what you are looking for!
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Thank you! And good researching!