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BerksFHS Berkshire Family Historian
December 2002

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Berkshire Family Historian
Main Page, December 2002 Contents

Birth Briefs Project

Errol Page

You may remember that on joining BFHS, and similar societies, you were given a blank pedigree form to fill in with, as far as you knew them, five generations of your family. Birth Briefs received until about 1990 have been indexed and filed in the Research Centre but are rarely referred to. About a year ago it was decided to computerise all the BFHS Birth Briefs to allow easy access and so increase their usefulness.

We consulted with, and acknowledge great help from, the Oxfordshire Family History Society (OFHS) which had already started a similar project. Like them, we decided to base our system on the Family Search Personal Ancestral File (PAF) developed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. PAY has many advantages, not least being free to download from the Internet at and easy to understand and use. Family tree pedigree charts can be printed out and a variable, searchable index produced. In addition, existing data can be updated and new Briefs can be added as they are submitted. The project started slowly with just three members as ‘inputters’ while the process was developed and refined. The paper Birth Briefs (BBs) are photocopied and batches of 15 are sent to the volunteer for inputting at home. They started with the ‘oldest’ BBs and now over 3,500 names are indexed. Initially we concentrated on the standard five generation charts. A few people have submitted charts that are far longer (one is 12 generations), some are descent instead of ascent and others contain many side branches. For a few, it is difficult to see how the names on the BB relate to the BFHS member who made the submission. Later we will input, when possible, these non-standard BBs.

Each BB is given a Custom ID e.g. BerksFHS1234. Where family members have each submitted a brief, then a suffix letter is added to the Custom ID, e.g. BerksFHS1234a, BerksFHS1234b. All the names within a single BB are given the Custom ID of that Brief. This allows for quick identification of the relevant Brief.

A PAF file is created for each BB. For each individual we input all or as much of the following records as exist in the original paper copy: full names, sex, nickname, date and place of birth/christening, marriage and death/burial, and occupation. Short notes such as ‘Had six children’ are also included. The individual PAF files of the BBs are collected into the PAF main file from which we create an index. The Index will allow a surname search which will show the year and county of birth/christening, marriage and of death/burial and, most importantly, the Custom ID. The searcher may then request a printout of a PAF chart and ask to be put in touch with the submitter if he/she is still a member. For reasons of privacy, only the name and no further details will be included in the Index and the BB printout for persons born less than 110 years ago and for whom we do not have a death/burial date.

It is planned to place the Birth Brief Index for self-searching on the BFHS website at which can be accessed from home, from the Research Centre in Reading or from an Internet café or library anywhere in the world. We regret that no postal searches will be available at this time. Once the search facility is up and running the website will give details of how to obtain the Birth Brief chart or be put in touch with the submitter.

Most Briefs were prepared when the member joined BFHS and perhaps knew little of their ancestors; they may now know more or maybe have found errors in their original submission. Other members did not send in BBs. Enclosed with this edition of the Berkshire Family Historian are blank forms so that members may update their data or submit a Brief if they have not done so before. Please send these to Birth Briefs at Yeomanry House.

If anyone would like to help input Birth Briefs, work which is easily done at home during odd moments of time, please emailor write to the Projects Co-ordinator at Yeomanry House, 131 Castle Hill, Reading, Berkshire RG1 7TJ.

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created 10th December 2002