Family History Archives

Special Family History Collections at the Society of Genealogists

kipling27Some of the most important items in the library of the Society of Genealogists are to be found in the mansuscripts  in the Special Collections. Housed in thousands of boxes, these collections often represent the life work of a genealogist who has researched many different families. Sometimes the work is quite scholarly or looks at families that share a common theme such as the Campling Collection, the original notes made  by Campling before publishing the pedigress as East Anglian Pedigrees. Other collections have compiled family trees for families in a specific area  such as the Rogers Collection of notes on Cornish families. The SoG has over 350 of these special collections.

New collections come into the library every week.  Often they are  the life work of a family historian bequeathed to the Society because no other family member might want the research. Each collection is sorted and listed by volunteers. Often the papers aren’t as organised as they might be when they arrive at the library. It  can be quite a daunting task to go through many boxes of notes and to make order out of chaos. It can be quite sad if family photos don’t have names or places attached to them such as these charming family photographs.

Sometimes it’s not only the family photos that can be difficult to  identify.   All sorts of ephemeral items often come in with the research notes.  Volunteers have great fun sorting the collections. It was a delight to find this fine fellow (below)  in the recent acquisition of the Helen collection. Helen Collection cat 1

Surnames represented in the Society’s document collections of miscellaneous manuscript research notes, the roll pedigree collections and the birth briefs submitted by members are listed on the library section of our website. However the names in the special collections are, at present, only listed in card indexes in the lower library.

Contributing to the Society’s centenary appeal can help us continue to conserve and care for our collections. See the donations page of our website.

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14 SoG members took part in the guided walk around the City of London looking at some of the lost burial grounds.  Between 1741 and 1837 over two million burials occurred within the City but finding trace of these can now be a challenge. The walk, led by Alec Tritton, started at St Olave Church Hart Street, near the Tower of London and concluded at Bow Churchyard. Concentrating on burial grounds in the financial district the group got a feel for the parishes where their ancestors lived, and died. After two and a half hours we retired exhausted but cheerful to one of the few local hostelries actually open in the City on Saturdays. Everyone agreed they had a good day as you can see by the picture. London burial walk

Alec’s next walk around nonconformist chapels and burial grounds will take place on Saturday 26 September. Places are limited so do take the opportunity to book on line via the   SoG’s events pages on our website

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The National Archives proposes changes to opening hours and other cost savings

Staff and users at The National Archives have now been informed what TNA is proposing to meet the challenges of reducing the operating costs of £42 million by about 10% (£4.2m.) Jeff James, Director of Operations and Services has outlined why TNA is having to make cuts, what the cuts will be and what impact they will have on staff and readers. Cuts won’t be across the board but will be implemented, we are told, strategically. Staff costs comprise about half of TNA’s operating costs. Public Services employs about 400 of the 660 staff and TNA is looking to lose about 60 places from Public Services, in some instances by not filling about 30 current vacant positions and looking at redundancy packages for about another 35. Public Services will have to contribute some £900K of the £4.2 millions savings. Some staff will have to be what is termed “displaced”, i.e. moved internally within TNA or given the opportunity to work elsewhere in the Civil Service. Many staff will be expected to reapply for jobs although there will be fewer places. Expertise and knowledge accumulated in various departments are clearly at risk. Archives and Records Knowledge (ARK) is expected to lose 12 out of its 102 posts. Staff reductions and streamlining services are intended to save about £1/2m. Other back office duties, its information and government policy role and the advisory and executive functions of the National Archives are also expected to contribute to savings.
TNA is looking to cut the number of days the reading rooms are open. It is proposed to reduce the opening days to Tuesday to Saturday only. Not only will this reduce staff requirements but shift patterns will be altered to use resources differently. It is proposed, for example, that expert specialist staff will not be available on the late night openings between 5-7pm but will be redirected to the busier periods between 11am and 3pm.
TNA is having to make sure all its activities are managed efficiently Some of its commercial activities are profitable, such as the income from the licences to digitise the 1911 census. However publishing books apparently makes little money as does the limited research service. TNA is also proposing streamlining its copying services including withdrawal of the Digital Express and the estimating services and the introduction of a new online copying request service.

Reaction at the first open meeting was most divided about the proposals to charge for the use of the public car park at Kew. Some vehemently against and others feeling it was better to charge for this rather than subsidise it out of operating income.

While not contributing greatly to the costs reductions per see, the removal of selected large microfilm and fiche records series from the reading rooms now they are digitised will enable space to be freed up as film and fiche cabinets are removed and older equipment will no longer have to be maintained and replaced. There is however much criticism of this policy as the online surrogates aren’t absolutely satisfactory and films will still be available to order through the catalogue.

The closure of the Family Record Centre and addition of the GRO fiche indexes for births, marriages and deaths to 2007 have undoubtedly placed a burden on TNA staff who are helping many readers use records that are not actually its responsibility. TNA is proposing that it no longer provides free access to the GRO fiche indexes and will not take the updated indexes in future.

Future investment will continue TNA’s drive online and it intends to continue to develop the online catalogue and digitisation projects. However IT savings are forecast to be considerable and one cynically wonders whether any IT project has actually saved a government department money? TNA wants to encourage most people to use its records remotely and not come to Kew unless it is necessary, but acknowledges there will never be enough money to scan every document it holds. Family historians have probably seen the best of investment made so far and any future digitisation will always be aimed at who are most likely to pay. However the building itself is getting old and is costly to run. We cannot rule out the unthinkable that The National Archives may well have to consider relocating

It is intended that all changes are implemented by March 2010. The proposals are currently being negotiated with Staff and Unions, there will be the “consultation period” for comments up to about September when notice will be given of the changes. The opening hours will probably change in January and the films and fiche withdrawn by the end of March 2010.
An outline of the proposed cuts and changes at TNA will be found posted on its website by the end of this week. The PowerPoint presentation and questions will be put up in full, Anyone wishing to comment or make suggestions can email
Else Churchill, Genealogist

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Family History Courses for the 21st Century

The Society of Genealogists’ First Online Family History Course

The Society of Genealogists and Pharos Teaching and Tutoring Ltd are pleased to announce a new joint online course called I’m Stuck!  How can the Society of Genealogists Help Me? starting 28th May 2009 and repeated from 2nd July 2009. 

In this short two week course, Else Churchill of the Society of Genealogists will guide you through the steps needed to help you think logically about research problems and how to solve them.  She also introduces you to records and indexes, held by the Society of Genealogists, which can be used to break down those brick walls, and demonstrates how these resources help you extend your family tree.  Emphasis is also placed on learning how to apply research techniques to solve your problems.

Prospective students can pay and enrol via the Pharos website – at a price of £23.99 or a discounted price of £19.99 for members of the Society of Genealogists.

The course is suitable for genealogists who have had some experience in family history research in England & Wales but who have found they have been unable to identify where their ancestor might have come from. 

It is hoped that this will be the start of a wider collaboration on genealogical distance learning courses between the Society and Pharos.

genealogy tutors

Helen Osborn, Managing Director of Pharos Teaching and Tutoring Ltd, said today

“We are very pleased to be given the opportunity of working with the Society of Genealogists in this collaborative way and to bring the vast knowledge of the Society to a wider audience.”

Else Churchill, Genealogist at the Society & tutor for Pharos courses, said today

“The Society of Genealogists is delighted to offer the first of, what we hope will be many, distance learning opportunities for the Society. This course will enable those who are unable to visit the Society and take part in our extensive education programme to learn more about the techniques of family history research and the Society of Genealogists in particular.  ”

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