Tag Archives: search

A is for Access to Archives

27 Oct

Each week in the A to Z of English Genealogy I will focus on one particular aspect of English genealogy, starting this week with the letter A which stands for Access to Archives or A2A.

Access to Archives was originally a standalone website, but it is now integrated into The National Archives website, and can now be found at http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/a2a/default.aspx.

Essentially A2A is a search engine for the catalogues of respositories in both England and Wales. According to the website the index contains “contains 10.3 million records relating to 9.45 million items held in 418 record offices and other repositories”. This is a great tool for locating archives that contain information about particular people and places, but it does have it’s limitations.

The index was last updated in April 2008 and no new records are going to be added to the site (although there was supposed to be the facility for the existing records to be updated). Despite being effectively frozen in time, it is still a useful tool because it is said to “contain about 30 per cent of catalogues of archival collections in England and Wales.”

Searching is pretty straightforward, and you are probably better off heading straight for the advanced search page (shown below), rather than the quick search because of the ability to apply various restrictions on the search.

The amount of information contained in each catalogue entry varies widely, sometimes very little information is returned, but sometimes it is almost as good as viewing the actual record itself. Take for example the entry below which mentions so many of my TROWER relations.

Many respositories now have their own catalogues online, so it is always worth visiting their website and carrying out a search, but A2A is a great way of getting an overview of where the records might be found in the first place, and of course provides a single straight-forward interface for accessing many different catalogues.

It feels so good to organise

25 Aug

Organising my paper folders is proving to be quite a rewarding task. I know I still have much to do, but I can already see the benefits of my new system. I think much of it boils down to the fact that ultimately I will have everything in one place and the advantages that this will bring.

It will be much easier to find things – I will only have one place to look for things, my hard drive. On top of this there is the added advantage of the Windows search function as well. No need to spend hours hunting through folders, wondering where that piece of paper was filed or if it was ever filed at all.

Less duplication of effort – Really a spin off from the fact that everything will be easier to find, I should be able to find out almost instantly whether I have already searched/found a piece of information.

Everything will be backed up – I will gain tremendous piece of mind knowing that all my remaining paper documents will have digital copies as a backup and in turn those digital backups will be backed up on a regular basis.

Liberating my research – It will be so liberating to be able to carry every single piece of my research around with me on my netbook, whether I am going on a research trip or just visiting relatives.

Making me review my research – The organising process is making me revisit most of my research, and highlighting areas that I need to follow up on, and things that have been missed. My to-do list is filling up quite nicely.

All that being said, it is not an easy process and is going to take some discipline to actually keep it going, but I can already see that it is worth the effort. Once I have sorted all my paper I will then need to focus on the digital side of things and get that more organised as well.

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