Friday, 6 November 2009

DOVE shot in mid-flight - welcome in DIP

A few days ago I blogged that the Digitisation of Vital Events (DOVE) project, designed to digitise the births, marriages and deaths for England and Wales from 1837, had been restarted. Roger Lewry from the Federation of Family History Societies has now provided an update and link to further news on this.

First things first - DOVE is actually dead. The project finished half-completed last year, when the contract for Siemens, the company responsible, was not renewed. It has now been replaced by the blandly titled Digitisation and Indexing Project. The project has the following aims:

* Completion of the digitisation of the outstanding registration records, namely births, marriages and deaths from 1837 to current date.

* Creation of online indexes to these events.

* Enhancements to the existing certificate ordering and production systems to enhance the overall customer experience.

For anybody with relatives in England and Wales hoping for a future ScotlandsPeople style website, this essentially means you're fresh out of luck (as before with DOVE) - the GRO has the following to say on that:

Current legislation in England and Wales does not permit the register entries (certificate information) to be made available online. However, the provision of online access to the indexes will provide greater accessibility and improved ease of use for those people undertaking family history research.

In other words, for this to happen, there needs to be a change in the law, and it looks like the GRO are more than happy to just continue with the provision of an online index instead (replacing the MAGPIE project, another civil service bird that was shot in mid-flight).

The net result of all this is that in time a new indexing system will be made available online by the GRO, replacing the need for access to the current indexes online through sites such as, The, and Ancestry has recently significantly enhanced its indexes in association with FreeBMD - it will be interesting to see if the GRO's index betters it.

A horrible thought that did occur to me was whether the new indexes will in fact be compatible with the old. Could the efforts of FreeBMD and others be redundant within a few months? If so, expect a peasant's revolt from the genealogical community.

Once again, I think it is disgraceful that England and Wales should be prevented from online access to records the equivalent of which are already available online in Scotland, and planned for in Northern Ireland along similar lines in the next couple of years. It affects those of us in Scotland also with families who settled in or originated from England - it is a UK wide issue for genealogists.

If you want access to the digitised records online, rather than writing to your current MP, I suspect a good ploy might be to start writing to the prospective candidates for the next election in your area. The current crop don't appear to be listening, and I suspect that the make up of the next House of Commons is going to be just a tad different to the current set up, whichever party you support!

A full Q&A on the project is online at

Professional genealogical problem solving and research

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