British Library and to digitise 5 million pages of family history records

Findmypast (sponsors of the Society of Genealogists’ centenary year and host of some 9 million names from the SoG online Library Collections)  have had a busy time recently. The Society has received the following update of new ventures and online family history records relating to the British in India.

Selections from the India Office Records and a century of electoral registers will be made online

The British Library and family history website are to digitise a treasure trove of family history resources held by the Library, making them available online and fully searchable for the first time.

The project will involve the scanning of UK electoral registers covering the century that followed the Reform Act of 1832, along with records of baptisms, marriages and burials drawn from the archives of the India Office. When available online, these collections will enable historians, genealogists and family history researchers to make connections and track down details of ancestors and others at the click of a mouse – work that would previously have necessitated visits to the Library’s Reading Rooms and many hours of laborious manual searching.

The British Library holds the national collection of electoral registers covering the whole of the United Kingdom.  The registers contain a vast range of names, addresses and other genealogical information.
“Digitisation of the electoral registers will transform the work of people wishing to use them for family history research,” said Jennie Grimshaw, the Library’s curator for Social Policy and Official Publications. “Printed electoral registers are arranged by polling district within constituency and names are not indexed, so the process of finding an address to confirm names of residents is currently incredibly laborious. Digitisation represents a huge breakthrough as users will be able to search for names and addresses, thereby pinpointing the individuals and ancestors they’re looking for.”  
The other holdings included in the large-scale digitisation are drawn from the archives of the East India Company and the India Office. These records relate to Britons living and working in the Indian sub-continent during the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries, up to Independence in 1948. They include over 1,000 volumes of ecclesiastical returns of births, marriages and burials, together with applications for civil and military service, and details of pension payments to individuals.

Antonia Moon, curator of post-1858 India Office Records said, “These records are an outstanding resource for researchers whose ancestors had connections with British India, whether as servants of the administration or as private inhabitants.”
The partnership between the British Library and followed a competitive tender process and will see five million pages of UK electoral registers and India Office records digitised over the next year. The resources will become available via and in the British Library’s Reading Rooms from early 2012; online access will be available to subscribers and pay-as-you-go customers – access to users in the British Library Reading Rooms will be free.

Simon Bell, the British Library’s Head of Licensing and Product Development, said: “We are delighted to announce this exciting new partnership between the British Library and, which will deliver an online and fully searchable resource that will prove immensely valuable to family history researchers in unlocking a treasure trove of content that up to now has only been available either on microfilm or within the pages of bound volumes. The Library will receive copies of the digitised images created for this project, so as well as transforming access for current researchers, we will also retain digital versions of these collections in perpetuity, for the benefit of future researchers.”

Elaine Collins, Commercial Director at, said: “We’re very excited to be involved with this fascinating project. The electoral rolls are the great missing link for family historians: after censuses and civil registration indexes, they provide the widest coverage of the whole population. To have Irish and Scottish records alongside England and Wales is also a huge advantage. These records will join the 1911 Census, Chelsea Pensioner Service Records and many more datasets available online at, which enable people to make fantastic discoveries day after day.”

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SoG online data update. Bank of England Wills index and images now on Findmypast

The Society of Genealogists’ collections of Bank of England Wills Abstracts is now available online of

Previously only the index to these remarkable records was available online and the Society undertook a copy service to provide the records. Now excellent quality images of some 60,523 will abstracts for the period 1717-1845 can be viewed drectly online with the index.

The Bank of England Wills index and images will shortly also be published exclusively for SoG members on our website . Look out for an announcement when these ecords are published on MySoG.

For more information about the Bank of England Will abstract online visit the findmypast website

Society of Genealogists and Start Your Family Tree Week

All the talk of family  history  stories around the Christmas dinner table makes the festive period the perfect time to focus on building your family tree. The Society of Genealogists has been helping family historians for 100 years and is delighted to support Start Your Family Tree Week 26 December –1 January. Follow this link for our free information leaflet  Start Your Family History with the Society of Genealogists with all the useful web links and guides to sources you need;  follow our Ten Tips for Starting Your Family History or keep the kids occupied with the challenge to record their family tree on our 4 Generation Pedigree Chart and Quiz.

Each day from Boxing Day until New Year’s Day,, sponsors of the Society of Genealogists’ Centenary Year will be giving you a helping hand on your journey into your past. Look at the findmypast  website for the Start Your Family Tree Week daily hints, tips and activities to help you research your family tree. Discover some of the great prizes the Society of Genealogists, findmypast and other partners are offering for family historians throughout the week including*  :-

  • A day tracing your family tree with famous genealogist, Else Churchill at the Society of Genealogists in London – using the resources of the SoG and looking at aspects of their research. The prize includes return travel by train to London from within the UK and two nights’ accommodation in London for the winner and a guest
  • 1 free membership of the Society of Genealogists in our centenary year
  • 1 ticket to a day course at the Society of Genealogists, London: ‘Family History for Beginners and Refreshers’ with Geoff Swinfield on Saturday 5 March 2011.
  • Society of Genealogists‘ publications
    • 1 x My Ancestor was an Agricultural Labourer by Ian Waller
    • 1 x My Ancestors were Londoners by Cliff Webb
    • 1 x My Ancestor was an Apprentice by Stuart Raymond
    • 1 x My Ancestor was in Service by Pamela Horn
    • 1 x My Ancestor was in the British Army by Chris and Michael Watts
  • A free start your family history beginners session at the Society of Genealogists with community officer Ashley Young who can help anyone start using computers and get the most from free online resources at the Society of Genealogists Library, such as and other online family history sites usually only available on pay-per view or subscription

 Make it your New Year’s resolution to carry on researching your family history – imagine what you can show your family next year.

The Society of Genealogists would like to wish all our friends and members a very happy Christmas and  all the best for 2011 the SoG Centenary Year

*A complete list of prizes  for Start Your Family History Week and terms and conditions can be found here

Society of Genealogists supports “Start Your Family History Week” 26 Dec-1 Jan 2011

Announcing “Start Your Family Tree Week”-  26 Dec 2010 – 1 Jan 2011

 The holiday season between Christmas and New Year is a great time to statr your family history. Families will have come together and the stories have come out.  Serious family historians will have time to use that new genealogical software and update their family trees.

Family history websites and Genes Reunited are getting together to launch the first “Start you family tree week” in the UK.  From Boxing Day 2010 right through to New Year’s Day there’ll be special offers and activities available every day on both websites, including free getting started guides, printable charts, discounts, competitions, and lots more. This new initiative has the support of the Society of Genealogists and the Federation of Family History Societies. It is anticipated that further partners and websites will become involved, with the aim of getting more people of all ages to discover more about their family history over the Christmas period.

Look out for the “Start your Family History” week promotions on the SoG website   and newsblog  where the Society of Genealogists will make available  downloadable pdfs of our 10 tips for starting your family history, a 4 generation pedigree chart and updated Start your Family History Information leaflet

Debra Chatfield, Marketing Manager of commented: “We know from our customer surveys that Boxing Day is one of the most popular days of the year for people to research their family history. With the family gathered around for the festivities, it’s the perfect time to quiz the older generations on what they remember about the family, and get the youngsters inspired too about this rewarding and fascinating hobby.  And with many people not working between Christmas and New Year, you’re more likely to have time on your hands to get down to some serious record searching.”

Details of what’s on offer each day will be posted every day from Boxing Day onwards on the findmypast blog and Genes Reunited blog

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