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Sunday, December 4, 2011

FreeREG - a forgotten resource?

I have been further exploring the availability of Norfolk, England parish records online and recently came across a site I have of course heard about for years but have quite forgotten to check for a very long time. It perhaps doesn't get the publicity and acknowledgement it deserves.

FreeREG aims to provide free Internet searches of baptism, marriage, and burial records that have been transcribed from parish and non-conformist registers of the U.K. FreeREG is a companion project to FreeBMD (a database of the GRO birth, marriage and death indexes from 1837) and FreeCEN (a database of census information).

The number of Norfolk FreeREG parishes included in their searchable database is astonishing and represents an enormous effort on the part of volunteer transcribers.

So anyone interested in tracing their families in Norfolk have a fabulous resource in FreeREG.

I understand Norfolk is particularly well covered in FreeREG but other counties are undoubtedly worth checking. I believe Lincolnshire also has particularly good coverage.

FreeREG doesn't allow you to view the actual transcription. There is a separate search engine for baptisms, marriages and burials. There is no provision for any wildcards so all variants of a surname have to be entered separately. Because many transcribers place a '?' after doubtful entries, the site also recommends searching for the surname and variant of interest together with a '?' to ensure you pick up those entries. The search engine does provide for 'soundex' searches that will pick up variants - but this also produces an awful lot of surnames that are of no interest at all. And of course if the surname is completely incorrectly transcribed, it's almost impossible to find it!

Although it doesn't contain anything like the number of parishes included in FreeREG, the Norfolk Transcription Archive is also well worth a look. This archive conveniently lists all the surnames found in its database. This is very helpful in picking up strange and unexpected variants.