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10 Top Databases for British Genealogy

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Millions of records from England, Scotland and Wales are available online in the form of digital images or transcriptions. These can be found on literally hundreds of helpful genealogy Web sites, but the following 10 websites are a great starting point for anyone researching British ancestry.

1. FreeBMD

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A large portion of the Civil Registration Index of births, marriages and deaths for England and Wales have been transcribed by volunteers and can be searched online for free at FreeBMD. Images of many of the original BMD indexes can also be viewed. Be sure to click on the page number when searching for marriages, to view a list of potential spouses. And once your research takes you back past the onset of civil registration in 1837, check out FreeREG for a companion project of transcribed parish registers.

2. Ancestry.co.uk (or Ancestry.com)

Ancestry.com offers online access to digitized images of all census returns from 1841 to 1901 for England, Wales, the Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man, and are in the process of adding these for Scotland as well. Other available records for British genealogy include early parish registers and a copy of the FreeBMD database mentioned above. You can access these records through a World Membership at Ancestry.com, or purchase UK only access for a monthly or annual subscription fee. For research in their British records they also offer limited pay-per-view access, which isn't an option in the American-based Ancestry.com.

3. Scotlands People

I could only wish that other regions had as much available online as Scotland. Through Scotlands People you can access online indexes to births, marriages and deaths from 1 January 1855, as well as images of the actual records on a pay-per-view basis. They also have all census records for Scotland from 1841-1901, old parish registers of baptisms and marriages from 1553-1854, and Wills and Testaments held by the National Archives of Scotland. This is the type of site that really fulfills my need for instant gratification!

4. National Archives of England & Wales

The National Archives offers a wide variety of digitized public records including Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC) wills from 1384 to 1858, WWI Campaign medals, service registers of Royal Navy Seamen (1873-1923), the Domesday Book, and census returns for England and Wales, 1841-1901. In general, index searches are free and you pay individually for each document you choose to download and view.

5. The International Genealogical Index (IGI)

This huge (and FREE) database from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) contains numerous baptisms and marriages transcribed directly from parish records around England and Wales. Check the source to see if the information was taken from the original parish records, Bishops Transcripts, or was provided by a church member researching his/her own family history. Most of these parish records are from the 1850s and earlier.

6. The Genealogist

Pay-per-view all-inclusive subscriptions are inexpensive here, and the credits are good for up to three months or a year, depending on the subscription you choose. This site from S&N Genealogy Supplies offers excellent value for its wealth of genealogy databases, including the full BMD index (births, marriages, and deaths), census records, parish registers, directories, and a variety of specialty databases. The BMD site (www.bmdindex.co.uk) is also affiliated, as is the volunteer indexing site UK Indexer (www.ukindexer.co.uk).

7. Find My Past

Previously known as 1837online.com, this Web site offers pay-per-view and subscription access to the Civil Registration Index for England & Wales, census records, city directories, and their most unique database - Passenger Lists of Ships Leaving the UK (1890-1919 presently available).

8. British Origins

British Origins offers a number of records not available on other sites, including access to some of the records of the Society of Genealogists. I also applaud them for their search, which allows you to search for similiar sounding first names as well as last names. This is a good site to search after you've exhausted the BMD and census sites - for wills, marriage records, court records, apprenticeship records, maps, and other goodies. This is a subscription-based site, not pay-per view - with monthly and annual options. A Origins Total Access subscription also includes access to Scots Origin (which doesn't offer very much) and Irish Origins (which does have some good records for Irish researchers).

9. Roots UK

If you're just starting out in your family history research and are unsure about plunking down money for an annual subscription-based site, then RootsUK offers an inexpensive pay-per-view service based on the indexes and records of S&N Genealogy Supplies (which also operates subscription-based site, The Genealogist, listed above). It offers clean, user-friendly navigation and an inexpensive way to look at just a few records. Once you're hooked and find yourself doing a lot of online British research, you'll likely find a better value with an all-inclusive subscription site, however.

10. FamilySearch Record Search

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) have placed a wealth of genealogy data (both indexes and digital documents) online for free through their Record Search pilot site. Records available for the British Isles include Cheshire christening and burial records, the England and Wales census of 1841 and 1861, a database of pre-1900 England baptism and marriage records, and Ireland civil registration indexes from 1845-1958.

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