Inside the Local BMD Project


02 May 2023
The Local BMD Project covers projects around the country
Local birth, marriage and death project specialists Ian Hartas, John Marsden & Steve Stutcinskas introduce the Local BMD Project, explain how it can help your family history, and how you might like to get involved too.

The Local BMD Project exists to accomplish the goal of making the indexes to the local register office civil records of births, marriages and death available online. It’s a project that has been running for over two decades and covers several areas across England and Wales, which together provide access to the milestone figure of 50 million BMD index entries.

How it all began

In August 2000 the South Cheshire Family History Society (SCFHS) were approached by the Crewe Registrar and asked to place indexes to the local register office marriages online. These were duly added to the SCFHS website. At a similar time the Registrar from Chester had asked the main Family History Society of Cheshire a similar request to host their local marriage indexes too. Soon though, both societies pooled their resources and produced a combined site that also had some birth and death indexes. This was the fledgling ‘Cheshire BMD’ website. 

Other societies liked the idea and asked whether the software could be used to create BMD sites for other areas. So, Cheshire BMD was soon followed by a Yorkshire BMD, Lancashire BMD, Staffordshire BMD and North Wales BMD – with this latter site being bi-lingual. Since then the number of areas of the country using the same software has grown with the latest addition being Kingston upon Thames. This loosely coupled group of websites has become known as the Local BMD Project.  

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What are the advantages of local BMD projects? 

All of these sites are based on the original registers held by the local register offices and so often avoid the transcription errors and omissions that the General Register Office’s copies are well known for. It’s the usual advice in genealogy, if you have the choice between records based on original data and those based on copies, then it’s best to choose the originals. 

As a spin-off from these Local BMD websites the UKBMD website was set up to provide links to the BMD websites and more. On UKBMD’s Local BMD page you will find links to all the sites in the Local BMD Project and also links to the other sites that have placed their indexes online, but using different software. 

This all means that Family history researchers gain access, which was previously unavailable to them, to comprehensive and detailed indexes taken from the primary source - the original register, rather than the GRO's copy.  Marriages are fully paired and also list the venue for the wedding. 

How could you help? 

So who is needed? Local project leaders and coordinators are needed to get a project off the ground and keep it running. In the early days of these websites the only options were to photocopy the registers (or existing paper indexes) and then distribute these papers out to transcribers. Technology has advanced a lot and often the best option these days is digital photography. Digital images allow for the transcribers to be located anywhere in the world. 

Where to find out more about LocalBMD Projects 

The Local BMDInfo website holds a lot of information about the Local BMD Project and what is needed to get things moving. 

There’s also a link to the project’s documentation which is a mixture of documents covering all aspects of the project, data processing and tutorial videos showing worked examples of processing a new data set. 

Initial contact can be made via the Local BMD information website.

Article adapted from an in-depth article on Local BMD in the June 2023 issue of Family Tree. Get your copy here.

About the authors

Ian Hartas: author of the software used in the Local BMD sites, UKBMD/UKGLD/UKMFH, local BMD multi-region search, local BMD certificate ordering pages, final data processing. 

John Marsden: from Manchester and Lancashire FHS, coordinator for Lancashire BMD, Cumbria BMD. 

Steve Stutcinskas: over 20 years of experience working directly with the registrars, coordinator for Staffordshire BMD & Kingston BMD. 

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