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Get More Than You Expect

A good example of free institutional records is the 1901 Census for England and Wales. Access to the index is free, so you can look up individuals and get the basic information as follows.

Image Name
 
Age Where
Born
Administrative
County
Civil Parish Occupation
Charlotte Dunmore 23 Leicester Northamptonshire St Giles Shoe Machinist
Charlotte Dunmore 48 Norfolk St Germans Norfolk Wiggenhall St German Living On Own Means
Charlotte Dunmore 48 Northampton Northamptonshire St Giles Grocer

Clicking the yellow image button on the left will reveal the image of the original document that will show the family members together, but there is a fee for this. Additional information can be gleaned from the free index by continuing to search using other qualifying information. In the case, other family members were discovered by searching for the Dunmore surname in the St. Giles parish who were born in Leicester.

Image Name
 
Age Where
Born
Administrative
County
Civil Parish Occupation
Ada Dunmore 19 Leicester Northamptonshire St Giles Teacher Piano
Charlotte Dunmore 23 Leicester Northamptonshire St Giles Shoe Machinist
William Dunmore 26 Leicester Northamptonshire St Giles Soldier Private

Clever Ideas & Tricks

Many online records are merely indexes. When you first use these records, they seem almost useless but they are intended to help you lookup offline records. One example of this is the OCFA Ontario Cemetery Finding Aid. This is a database of names and cemeteries. Cemetery transcription books are available for all of the cemeteries from local genealogical societies. This database is intended only to direct you to the correct transcription book. I was looking for 3 brother's with the very common names of Henry, James, and John Young. Searches of each of these names resulted in too many records, but by using the OCFA database I was able to narrow my search to the correct cemetery by finding one that had records for all three names.

Surname Given Name Cemetery County Township Reference
YOUNG John Hazeldean / Union (Hazeldean group) Carleton Goulbourn OT-80-6
YOUNG John Maple Grove Burial Permits (Hazeldean Group) Carleton March OT-80-6
YOUNG John St John's, South March Carleton March OT-85-02
YOUNG John Beechwood, Ottawa (1873-1900) Carleton Ottawa OT-90-05
YOUNG John Albert St John's, South March Carleton March OT-85-02
YOUNG John W. Munster Union Carleton Goulbourn OT-77-5
YOUNG John Walter Beechwood, Ottawa (1931-1955) Carleton Ottawa OT-95-01
YOUNG James St John's, South March Carleton March OT-85-02
YOUNG James Beechwood, Ottawa (1873-1900) Carleton Ottawa OT-90-05
YOUNG James Millar Beechwood, Ottawa (1931-1955) Carleton Ottawa OT-95-01
YOUNG James Beechwood Burial Register (1873-1900) (INDEX ONLY) Carleton Ottawa OT-90-05
YOUNG Henry St John's, South March Carleton March OT-85-02
YOUNG Henry Amon, Rev. Beechwood, Ottawa (1901-1930) Carleton Ottawa OT-93-02

Some indexes are more limited than you might expect. For example, the 1871 Ontario census online index is of head of household only. To get further details and names of other family members you must go the the microfilm records. Although this is limited, it is far better to have this index than to search the microfilm without it. 

Using Combinations of Databases

A useful database is freebmd.rootsweb.com. FreeBMD stands for Free Births, Marriages, and Deaths. The FreeBMD Project's objective is to provide free Internet access to the 1837-1983 Civil Registration index information for England and Wales. Unfortunately, these records will take a long time to be completely entered into the database. This database is intended as an index so that the civil registration certificates can be ordered from the British GRO General Register Office. What I like best about this database is that you can determine the wife's maiden name which you cannot determine from census records alone.  The index normally shows the names of 2 to 4 couples on a page with no indication of which people are married. The forenames can normally be used to determine which are men and which are women. Normally, you will have 2 to 4 names of people, one of which is the spouse. How can you determine which one is the spouse? Ordering the marriage certificate will certainly answer this question, but you might be able to determine this without spending any money. If you look up the same individual in the census records (eg. 1881 or 1901), you can see the first name of the wife.

The following page from FreeBMD shows that in 1871, George Dunmore married either Charlotte Stratford or Emma Cox.

Surname  First name(s)  Age  District  Vol  Page 
Marriages Jun 1871
COX  Emma    Northampton  3b 148
DUNMORE  George    Northampton  3b 148
RUFF  William Thomas    Northampton  3b 148
STRATFORD  Charlotte    Northampton  3b 148

The 1881 census shows that Geo. Dunmore's wife's name was Charlotte and her brother was Wm. Stratford confirming that Charlotte was a Stratford.

 Name  Relation Marital Status Gender Age Birthplace Occupation
 John Geo. DUNMORE   Head   M   Male   30   Northampton, Northampton, England   Shoe Fitter 
 Charlotte DUNMORE   Wife   M   Female   27   Northampton, Northampton, England   Shoe Fitter 
 George DUNMORE   Son   U   Male   9   Northampton, Northampton, England   Scholar 
 William DUNMORE   Son   U   Male   6   Leicester, Leicester, England   Scholar 
 Frederick DUNMORE   Son   U   Male   5   Leicester, Leicester, England   Scholar 
 Charlotte E. DUNMORE   Daur   U   Female   3   Leicester, Leicester, England   Scholar 
 John DUNMORE   Son   U   Male   1   Leicester, Leicester, England    
 Wm. STRATFORD   Brother   U   Male   26   Northampton, Northampton, England   Shoe Rivetter 

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