The most exciting news for me this week was the announcement from findmypast.co.uk that they are going to be digitizing parish records from the Archdeaconry of Canterbury.
Starting “in the coming weeks” the website will be adding the Canterbury Collection to its existing collection of parish register records. This has been timed to coincide with the temporary closure of their current home, Canterbury Cathedral Archives.
Initially the collection will consist of just browsable images, but the records will ultimately be transcribed and an index provided “later this year”.
I have written several times about my difficulties in researching in Kent, so this marks a great step forward for me. The county of Kent has been under-represented online until now and although most of my interests are further west nearer the Sussex border (the Archdeaconry of Canterbury covers eastern Kent) I am sure this is going to prove a valuable asset in my research.
This is an experimental weekly blog post, summarising some of the week’s news that might be of interest to family historians and genealogists with an interest in English research.
[Ancestry.co.uk] London Parish Registers now fully indexed
Ancestry.co.uk (in association with the London Metropolitan Archives) have completed the indexing of their London Parish Registers Collection. Previously only entries from 1813 (for baptisms and burials) and 1754 (for marriages) had been indexed, but now the index extends back to the earliest parish registers, which in theory started in 1538.
– Find out more on the Ancestry.co.uk website.
[Findmypast.co.uk] 7,000 extra Chelsea Pensioners records added
Findmypast.co.uk have further extended their collection of Chelsea Pensioners British Army Service Records 1760-1913. This addition consist of 7,247 records (44,130 separate images) from the period 1801 to 1912, from the National Archives series WO97.
– Find out more on the Findmypast.com website.
[Online databases] Parish Register Transcription Society makes selected transcriptions available online
(With thanks to Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter for bringing this to my attention)
The Parish Register Transcription Society have made available selected transcriptions from their catalogue via the Frontis archive publishing system, using a system of pay per view credits. These transcriptions are also available on CD, but this new system will make it more cost effective if your ancestors didn’t stay in the same place for long.
– Find out more on the Parish Register Transcription Society Data Archive website
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You will no doubt already read about the partnership between the British Library and brightsolid to digitise their newspaper collection, so I am not going to bore you with the details again.
Obviously this is good news and a step in the right direction especially as the British Library seem to have had an aversion to sharing digital images with anyone other than academic libraries. However my cynical side needs to see some more details before I can get excited about it.
Are they going to digitise the newspapers I want? The mention that they “will focus on specific geographic areas, along with periods such as the census years between 1841 and 1911” worries me. Perhaps it is very selfish of me but what if my ancestors didn’t come from those specific geographic areas.
What is it going to cost me to view these images? Will I be able to afford to browse a whole newspaper? Am I only going to be able to view a specific page brought up as search result?
Also consider the timescale. The headline figure of 40 million pages is due to be delivered over ten years, with a minimum of 4 million pages in the first two years. So please don’t hold your breath, it could be a long wait.
Please don’t get me wrong, it is good news, but I won’t be getting excited about it until I see what the results are like, how good the index is, how they are delivered and how much it costs. That’s enough for now, my glass is half empty, I must go and fill it up!
At last there is some sign of progress on the plans for The Keep, the new archive centre for East Sussex. The Keep is a joint project between East Sussex County Council, Brighton & Hove City Council and the University of Sussex.
The East Sussex County Council website now includes much more detail on the project than have previously been available. This includes maps, site plans, floor plans and artists impressions of the new centre, as well as a proposed timeline for the project.
A period of public consultation will take place between the 26th April and 28th May 2010. A feature of this will be three public exhibitions at local libraries, Lewes Library (12th May), Eastbourne Library (13th May) and the Jubilee Library in Brighton (26th May).
Everyone is invited to take part in the consultation, and there is a survey on the website to complete or opinions can be expressed via traditional methods, contact details can all be found on the website.
I will be having a closer look at the proposal in the coming weeks, but at first glance there appears to be important factor missing from the plans. There is no mention of how the whole project is going to be paid for. I am sure I am not the only one who would welcome some clarification on where the money is coming from.
Whilst I have been busy sorting, scanning and filing there have been a few announcements in the English genealogy world that I need to catch up on.
Findmypast.com have added 1.25 million high resolution images from the 1881 census to their site, to go with the previously available transcriptions (the transcriptions are free to search).
Familyrelatives.com have added details of 120,000 pupils and masters from UK Public Schools, some dating back to 1500. I doubt whether I am going to find any of my ancestors in any of these institutions.
Ancestry.co.uk have published records of over 100,000 British and Commonwealth Prisoners of War held by the Germans during the Second World War, as well as the UK Army Roll of Honour 1939-1945 which features details of British Army personnel killed in action.
192.com have updated 380,000 Electoral Roll records. Now don’t get too excited, these are from the 2009 Electoral Roll and the main focus of this is current information, although they do have some historical data. There is a lot of information on this site, some of which is free, but it is probably the best place to start looking if you are trying to trace a living relation in the UK.
The Autumn 2009 edition of Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine has on it’s cover disc two items connected with the David Mitchell episode of the series. Firstly there is some unseen footage from the episode (I haven’t watched it yet, but will let you know what it’s like) and secondly there is a deal with Ancestry.co.uk providing free access to the 1901 Scottish census (for a limited time only).
I have been looking at the recent news out of the National Archives in the UK, and it has made quite sobering reading. This is not the news that they have discovered another copy of the Declaration of Independence in their collections (I know what it’s like, things get buried and forgotten about, however my stuff is not worth $8.14 million), but the news about proposed changes to public services at Kew.
Unfortunately I will not be able to hear about these changes first hand at one of public meetings, but there is a report from Else Churchill of the Society of Genealogists on their website.
I have mixed feelings about these proposed changes, like the majority of users most of my interaction with the National Archives is via their website (it is probably about a year since I actually visited in person) and it is good to see the proposed changes are taking this change in priority into account.
Any loss of access to records would be regrettable, but I think we sometimes forget that the money to run this type of facility has to come from somewhere, and many would argue that there are better things to spend the money on than what is for most of us a hobby.
Any changes that involve a loss of employees are not to be taken lightly, especially when that loss possibly includes the loss of knowledge and expertise, and it is good to see that consultation and careful thought are going into this process.
I understand the need for these changes, and would rather see these changes implemented now, rather than run the risk of harsher cutbacks further down the road, or losing such a valuable resource altogether in the future.
It does raise worrying questions regarding the funding and viability of smaller archives throughout the country. If the National Archives is facing financial cutbacks then how long will it be before we start seeing similar or more drastic cutbacks at some of the smaller archives?
This interesting story turned up on the BBC News website today, about a family history researcher who has helped get the grave of a murdered policeman restored, 140 years ago today. The twist to the story is that it was her 3x great uncle William Pullin who was responsible for the murder.
Elaine Rees deserves recognition and congratulations for actually doing some good with her research, in making sure the memory of PC Richard Hill lives on.