The big Internet family history development in the U.K. for 2002 was the late launch of the online 1901 Census. This became available on a trial basis in late August, and is now in the finals stages of testing and modification.

 There are still some glitches, but overall the site works well, and I have found a number of relatives whom it would have been impossible to trace without a national index. As usual, there are instances where names and places have been wrongly transcribed, but this is true of all transcriptions, and it is a remarkable achievement to have the whole census indexed and available world-wide within nine months of the release date. It took eighteen years for the whole 1881 census transcription to be available on CD, and there are just as many mistakes. The 1901 census is available at www.census.pro.gov.uk. Access to the index is free, but you have to pay a fee to see either a full transcription of the entry for a particular address, or an image of the actual enumerator’s book. You can pay by credit or debit card, or by using vouchers available from the Society. Vouchers are sold at BAWA meetings and at the Research Room, or can be obtained by post from the Secretary.

The main development on the Society’s website this year has been the addition of the South Gloucestershire Burial Index. This contains burials from 1813 to about 1866 in those parts of the Bristol Diocese which are within the current local authority area of South Gloucestershire. At the time of writing, some parishes are still to be added to the index. The addition of the index has led to a substantial increase of the use of the Society’s website, and also required a major redesign to ensure that users with different browser and computer settings could all enjoy access. The Burial Index can be accessed from the main site at www.bafhs.org.uk , and then using the menu on the left-hand side.

If you experience problems with the Society’s website, please click on the “Refresh” button on your browser, as this may resolve them.

Checking post-1837 births marriages and deaths can be exhausting, whether you use microfiche or go to the Family Record Centre in London and use the printed indexes. Names have to be checked in each of the quarterly volumes, and you have to remember to look for variant spellings. An easier and cheaper method is now becoming available through the FreeBMD project. Volunteers are transcribing the information from the microfiche, and adding it to an on-line database at http://freebmd.rootsweb.com/ . This is still work in progress, but nearly 41 million entries were available at the beginning of October 2002. The index includes records from 1837 to 1901, and you can select the time period you want to search. There is no Soundex search option, so you have to enter variant spellings individually, but you only do this once, and do not have to remember to do it for every quarter.

FreeBMD is especially useful when looking for marriages. One of my Lawrence ancestors had a brother Stephen who is listed in the 1871 census living at a beerhouse in Tonbridge, Kent with a wife Emma who was reputedly born in Nuneaton. Stephen was not a common name amongst Lawrences at that time, but there are too many marriages to buy certificates for all of them, especially since by 1881 Stephen is listed as unmarried again. I checked FreeBMD for all marriages for Stephen Lawrence between 1861 and 1871, trying all known variations of the name. I found an entry for March 1867 in Medway registration district with the page reference 2a 538. By clicking on the reference number, I could see the four names listed at that page reference, two for men and two for women. One of the women is named Emma Hassell, so I have ordered the certificate for that marriage.

You can order certificates without obtaining the official coloured forms used at the Family Record Centre. Details of how to order certificates can be found at www.statistics.gov.uk/registration/certificates.asp. You can download application forms, and there is information about fees and ways to pay. There are cheaper ways to get certificates, but I think this is probably the simplest.

If you have not used FamilySearch (the online IGI) lately, it may be worth looking at it again. A lot more records have been added, although there are still errors and many omissions. Try checking for my ancestor Arthur Lawrence, who was baptised at Pembury, Kent in 1802. The entry shows his baptism, marriage, death and burial. Clicking on “Family” will show you his children, with their births and deaths. Arthur’s parents, and various brothers and sisters, emigrated to North America, and there are many Lawrence descendants over there. Some of them have contributed information to FamilySearch, occasionally without verifying sources, etc, which is why there are four other entries for Arthur, with different birth dates. FamilySearch can be found by following the Search option at www.familysearch.org/Eng/. Like all online resources, it needs to be used with care.

Bob Lawrence, Webmaster