FreeBMD Seven Steps to Contribute

Since 1837 births, marriages and deaths in England and Wales have been registered and genealogists use the index records (which contain a summary of the registration information) as the first step in ordering copies of the actual certificates. It is these certificates which provide a wealth of information on parents, addresses, names etc. Microfilm and Microfiche copies of the original indexes have been made and are available for viewing in various places although accessing them would involve significant travel for many people. Searching through the microfilm/fiche index records is also very slow and it is easy to make mistakes.

FreeBMD is an entirely volunteer project that is bringing this information into the 21st century by putting the index records on the Internet. It is therefore simpler and quicker for researchers everywhere to locate the record they are looking for. What used to take hours over a fiche reader can now be achieved in seconds. Access to the index records will remain free, hence our name: FreeBMD. Researchers will still need to buy the required certificates from the Office of National Statistics of Britain, but FreeBMD makes it easier to find exactly the index record you are looking for.

If you wish to contribute to the FreeBMD project, thus enabling researchers everywhere to benefit, this can be done from the comfort of your home. One way you can help is by contributing to the running costs of FreeBMD for although FreeBMD is manned by volunteers there are costs associated with running the project. Please see here for information on how to make a donation to the running costs of FreeBMD.

To contribute your time and skill the steps to take are:

STEP ONE.   Joining a Mailing List.

Joining a Mailing List will give you regular details about what is happening on FreeBMD. To join a list, please send an e-mail to one of the FreeBMD lists

The most appropriate list for a new transcriber is the Admin list. Please follow the instructions on the lists page.

Now you will start to receive regular mail about the project, and can ask for HELP from other FreeBMD transcribers

STEP TWO.   Volunteering for a Syndicate

If you haven't already done so, you can mail your chosen Syndicate Co-ordinator as described in the joining instructions.

Syndicate Coordinators are your first point of contact with FreeBMD as they are experienced transcribers and computer users who can answer your questions. Their most important role is to keep some control of who is working on which records, so that we can all finish the project as quickly as possible. The Coordinator can help you through the next few steps.

You can find out more about syndicates here.

STEP THREE.   Registering to Submit Data to the FreeBMD Web-Site.

Please go to the website registration address provided by your coordinator where you will be asked to complete a Registration form.

Volunteers only require one SubmitterID regardless of the number of Syndicates to which they belong. If you have previously transcribed for FreeBMD please continue to use your existing SubmitterID even if you intend to join another Syndicate or have been inactive for a long period of time.

If you have

please contact the Volunteer Coordinator with details of the problem.

During registration, you chose both a Submitter ID and a Password - both are case sensitive.

An automatic process will notify the coordinator as soon as you have completed registration and you will receive a return e-mail with details of how to complete the registration process. Once you have done this you will then be authorised to submit data for the project.

Please print out your Registration details and keep them in a safe place for future reference.

STEP FOUR.   Obtaining the Transcription Software

There are four excellent programs available for free download, which will help you to transcribe the records.
SpeedBMD
written by one of our volunteers, Peter Cox, is a DOS based program: Download
WinBMD
is a Windows based program, written by Ian Brooke, another volunteer: Download
MacBMD
written by Ben Hines, is for the Mac: Download
linBMD
written by Andrew Higgs, is for Linux based machines: Download

Which of these programs you use is a matter of personal preference, but all are excellent and will make your transcribing a most enjoyable experience.

It is strongly recommended that beginners use transcription software, rather then attempting to create the specialised upload files themselves with other software. Most user difficulties will be avoided if you use one of these programs.

The programs have been designed to help FreeBMD transcribers increase their transcription rate and improve their accuracy. A significant performance improvement over other spreadsheet methods can be achieved, depending of course on the quality of the source data being deciphered.

The programs achieve this through a number of devices which minimize the keystrokes required, such as:

In addition to these features, WinBMD offers an integral image viewer, and automatic uploading of files to FreeBMD.

Most users of these programs become quite comfortable in less than 30 minutes. Users will need Internet access to upload their entered data.

STEP FIVE.   The Indexes Arrive and you can Start Transcribing.

Once you have obtained copies of the UK Birth, Marriage or Death Indexes from your Syndicate Co-ordinator, or downloaded your allocated scans, transcription work can begin.

It is well worth reading the transcription software help files. All the answers you will need are there, how to start the project, the first batch, what to put in the headings, how to transcribe special characters, what to do if you can't read something, what file names to use, etc. (If your question is not answered by the help file or the Transcribers' Knowledge Base, try e-mailing your question to the Mailing List. No question is too trivial.)

When transcribing volunteers are asked to copy exactly what is on the original page. This is most important, transcribers must not try and correct the original indexes as this may inadvertently cause new errors. There is a page giving a few Transcribing Guidelines .

Further information about how to actually transcribe using the software described above can be found here.

Proof read your entries to make sure they are as accurate as possible when they arrive at FreeBMD. Donít forget they will be published on the web-site almost immediately, although you can alter them at any time afterwards.

STEP SIX.   Sending your First Batch of Information (Uploading)

Before getting too far, check that you can submit data. It is suggested that you upload transcriptions at the end of each page.

There are two ways of submitting information depending on the software you are using:

WinBMD
Go to the File/Send File to FreeBMD menu item
SpeedBMD and MacBMD
Send information using File Management
Further information is available here

Always start a new batch file after uploading.

Donít expect to see your entries on FreeBMD until the next database update is carried out by our Systems Administrator.

Note that after upload, your uploaded files can be corrected and re-uploaded. All is not lost if you find you have been transcribing incorrectly!

STEP SEVEN.   See How Well the Project is Doing.

To see the results of your work, try the FreeBMD search engine taking into account that it can be up to a month before your entries appear in the database.

Graphs of the progress of the project can be found here, and help to show how much has been completed. If you look for your SubmitterID here, you will find your own graph showing how many entries you have submitted.

Thank you for joining FreeBMD.

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