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Accessing Birth, Marriage and Death Records Free of Charge

No hobby is completely free of charge and genealogy is certainly no exception As a beginner, the temptation is often to sign up for one of the big commercial sites which you've seen advertised online, or sponsoring a TV show. Subscriptions can be expensive though, and if you're a beginner, the risk is that you get hooked into a subscription which doesn't meet your needs.

I'm a big fan of freebies, especially for people who are just getting started in genealogy. Explore what you can for free, then - and only then - start exploring the records you have to pay for.

Free BMD

Births, marriages and deaths are the building blocks of any family tree. For England and Wales at least, you will have to pay the General Register Office to access a copy of the full certificate. But the indexes can be accessed, free of charge, through a nifty little site called Free BMD.

For example, I have a distant relative on my tree called Ada Maria HEWAT. I know Ada Maria was born around 1861, and I've found her on the census for 1861-1901 with family members. I can't find her on the 1911 census, so perhaps she got married?

Searching on Free BMD for a marriage shows one result, in the second quarter (April-June) of 1902 in Warwick. Click on the page number and four names are listed, one of whom is Ada Maria. There are two possibilities for a spouse; Hamilton CALL, and Frederick William MASON. I can now search on the 1911 census for an Ada Maria CALL or MASON to see which one fits - and it's CALL.

Obviously this works better for a relatively unusual surname. But even with more common names, using Free BMD can help you narrow the spouse possibilities down considerably. Purchasing the certificates is the only way to know for sure, but clever use of Free BMD could mean only buying one or two certificates, rather than dozens.

Scotland's People Indexes

Full Scottish marriage records can mostly be viewed online through Scotland's People, for a price of around £1.50 in credits. But you can still see limited information, free of charge. For example, I know my grandfather was Robert HEWAT, and that he married my granny, whose name was Janetta. But where did they marry, when and what was her maiden name?

In order to look at the indexes on Scotland's People you'll need an account, but you won't need credits to search. Searching for a "Robert HEWAT" marrying anywhere in Scotland in any time frame returns 12 results, but only one has a spouse called Janetta. So I can tell, just from the index, that my granny's full name was Janetta Purves SIMPSON, and that she married my grandad in Aberlady, East Lothian in 1940.

Irish Genealogy

Ireland's government genealogy service, Irish Genealogy, is amazing, and completely free. Although coverage isn't complete, you can search through births, marriages and deaths as well as parish records pre-Civil Registration. Coverage isn't complete, but it's a valuable resource which shouldn't be overlooked.

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