Editor’s Note: This genealogy column was published in the February 12, 2012 issue of Tribune-Star.
If you have ancestors that go back to England or Wales over the past 175 years, the Free BMD website at https://www.freebmd.org.uk/ is the place to go. to visit.
In 1837 Britain passed a law requiring civil registration of births, marriages and deaths. Prior to this year, these vital records were kept in parish churches, primarily with the Church of England, but also in Maverick, Catholic and Protestant parishes. Beginning in 1837, every birth, marriage or death was also registered by the state and the information was placed in the quarterly vital statistics indexes. These indexes are transcribed, copied and put online by a multitude of volunteers on the Free BMD site. Nowadays [December 2021], the site contains 286,446,432 separate records and 375,831,989 records in total.
After going to the site, click on the search bar to start the search. The search engine contains several choices: first name, last name, family name, type of record sought, town, department and date range. Make sure your start date range is no earlier than September 1837, the quarter in which marital status began. All you really need to look up is last name and date range, and you can set districts and counties to “all” if you don’t know where your ancestor is from.
I researched my great-grandmother, Thomasine Sarah Sillick / Sellick. Because his first name could be spelled in many different ways, I just used the last name Sillick, an open date range starting in September 1837 and ending in 1880, long after he arrived in the United States. I chose to search for birth certificates, in all districts and counties. The search results were listed by quarter and year. I found it registered in the quarter of March 1845, in the district of Liskard, in the county of Cornwall. Her reference book was volume 9, page 170. Then I clicked on the glasses icon or “view original”, chose the jpeg format from a list and was awarded a photo scanned from the original handwritten quarterly index page referenced above. . So now I know she was born between March and June 1845 in Liskeard District, Cornwall (the quarterly indexes list all births in that quarter, with no specific date of birth). If I want to order his actual birth certificate, I now have the reference to help me place this order.
I also have other options, like adding an “postum” to her record saying that she married James Warrick in 1868 and eventually arrived in Clay County, Indiana with the option of leave my email address so others can contact me. Excellent service, and all for free.
Back on the Free BMD homepage, don’t overlook the links to FreeCen (free UK census transcripts) and FreeReg (free church register information, which may be older than 1837). The FreeReg database currently [December 2021] contains over 26,330,902 baptisms, 8,156,735 marriages and 19,251,320 graves in local parishes.
The FreeCen Project is working on British censuses from 1841 to 1911 (these list each member of the household by name). Go to this web page – www.freecen.org.uk/statistics.html – lists all counties by year and will show you which censuses are 100% complete. A search of the 1851 Cornwall census for my great-grandmother at the age of 6 shows that she was a visitor in the household of Jenny Sellick, 70, widowed and poor, living in Callington, Cornwall . I already know that this Jenny was his grandmother. Jenny received another visit on Census Day, Mary Ann Sellick, 17, who is my great-grandmother’s older sister. Thomazin and Mary Ann were born in the village of Calstock, Cornwall, (a good thing about the UK census is that it lists both town and county of birth), Jenny was born in North Tamerton, Cornwall, and Mary Ann is a “tin chest of drawers” by trade. (Cornwall was full of tin mines).
All of this for free, and I didn’t have to leave my home to find it.