I was recently working on a presentation about resources for tracing migrants to and through the UK and had a look again at the UK BMD website – www.ukbmd.org.uk/. .
Like the FreeBMD website – http://freebmd.rootsweb.com/ - it is a volunteer project bringing public vital records onto the web. The main difference with UK BMD is that the transcriptions come from more the detailed records held at some Register Offices rather than the main General Register Office (GRO) indexes. The transcriptions are available through County BMD projects. To find a County BMD select the County you are interested in using the sidebar menu of the main website. Any County BMD project will be listed at the top of the table of websites for the County. The County BMD records can be searched by surname, year and region within the County. There are separate searches for Birth, Marriage, Death records.
As said earlier the records are different as they come from local registers and not just the indexes. This means, say for a marriage, that the transcription will include not only the names but the place of marriage. The names will also include the groom and the bride for each marriage, even before 1912 when spouses names were first included in the indexes. As an example, a search on the Lancashire BMD site – www.lancashirebmd.org.uk/marriages.php - for Cohen for the year 1882 produces 18 results. For each marriage you can see the place of marriage, mostly Manchester Great Synagogue but also Register Offices and in two cases Churches. Not all Cohens are Jewish! The first entry for 1882 is Abraham Cohen to Jane Levinson at Manchester, Great Synagogue. For anyone who has struggled to find out which is the right record for a Cohen, especially before the indexes included spouses last names, this is an excellent resource.
The birth records on UK BMD are also useful, as sometimes the mother’s maiden name is included in records before September 1911. For Cohen in Lancashire there are maiden names in maybe 5% of records between 1882 and 1900. Other Counties have a much higher percentage of mother’s maiden names and some have none.
The death records are very similar to the existing indexes but they do include details of the sub-district. In the case of Manchester deaths, some are listed as being in Cheetham, which I suppose is not that much of a surprise.
The principal downside to the UK BMD site is that not every county has an individual site, particularly in London and the South East where there are no substantial projects. The coverage is variable also within counties, not all areas within a county will have records on the system. Some areas will have birth records but not marriages or deaths included. Even with these limitations, the UK BMD site and local sites offers a great deal of information not available elsewhere and can help break down brickwalls without having to buy lots of certificates.
As the UK BMD website says “This site provides 2229 links to web sites that offer on-line transcriptions of UK births, marriages, deaths and censuses. A wide range of other indexes and transcriptions are also available for most counties, these may include parish records, wills, monumental inscriptions etc.”
Some of the links are to the main paid for websites but most are to smaller free websites. It is a cornucopia of information, though a lot is not specifically Jewish.
So if you have a chance take a look at UK BMD and see what you can find!