Tuesday’s Research Tip – Free BDM Index for the UK

When searching for Birth, Death, and Marriage Records in the United Kingdom the Free BDM index is a good place to start for vital records.  You can begin by typing in names, places, and dates or you can go to the page “How best to Search” for some helpful hints before wasting too much time searching haphazardly.  Free BDN has 225,305,278 distinct records and you don’t want to miss the one you are looking for through a sloppy search effort. Events are reported quarterly. If your ancestor was born in January the birth record should be in the March report (end of first quarter) unless it was reported late, which is fairly common, and then it might be in the 2nd quarter report dated June. Extend a wide net at first when searching in this database, then narrow it down if you get too many results. The folks that make this index available want you to know that the Free BDN index contains all of the same mistakes that the originals do. If your ancestor’s name was spelled wrong on his birth record, it will be wrong in the BDN index too.

When we were searching for William John Doran and Rosina Evans’ marriage record we figured they might have been married in England. We knew Rosina was born in London according to her passenger record and census records. We also knew their son Bernard William Doran was born there from the same sources.  William John was from Belfast Ireland but he worked on the ships at sea and ship crew rosters showed a William Doran sailing out of Liverpool. We couldn’t tell for sure if that was him, but it was a possibility.

A search of the Free BDN index produced this result:

Surname First name(s) Spouse District Vol Page
Marriages Jun 1920 (>99%)
Doran William J Evans W.Ham 4a 797
URL Source citation: http://www.freebmd.org.uk/cgi/information.pl?cite=P6F%2FHIIUwIJQ5G69j9mNeg&scan=1

According to Free BDN’s help guide, the district W.Ham is an alternative name for West Ham, which spans the boundaries of the counties of Essex and Greater London.

This entry looked highly likely!

The June date meant that their wedding took place in April, May, or June, although it could have been earlier in the year.

The next step was to get a copy of the marriage certificate. Once you find the index record, you click on the following statement on their web site to proceed.

“Click here to learn what to do now.”

Free BDN UK cautions against using services other than official government agencies to secure copies of BDM certificates. You’ll end up paying more and are less likely to get the right certificate. The official UK website is https://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/certificates/default.asp

My lovely sister ordered their marriage certificate. This is a digital copy of what she received. (Click on the green document for a larger view.)

UK Marriage Certificate for William John Doran and Rosina Evans. 1920
UK Marriage Certificate for William John Doran and Rosina Evans. 1920

It was well worth the expense and effort to get the original certificate rather than just using the date in the Free BDN index as an approximation. A bonus came with the marriage certificate. It contained a note that both fathers were deceased at the time of their marriage in May 1920. This was information that we had been unsuccessfully searching for and here it was on William and Rosina’s marriage certificate! We now also know the name of the church they were married in and though we haven’t done it yet, we can now write to that church to see if more information is available for the couple and their family.

I hope this research tip helps you. I’m looking forward to writing more research tips in this blog in weeks to come.

This series, Tuesday’s Research Tip, was suggested by Susan Petersen of Long Lost Relatives and, in fact, this has been an ongoing series by Lynn Palermo at The Armchair Genealogist and by Miriam Robbins at AnceStories: The Stories of My Ancestors.

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