National Archives Archives


The first meeting of The National Archives’ User Advisory Group is on 22 June, then four times a year thereafter.

If anyone has any issues or points they wish to raise about TNA please do not hesitate to contact Else by email genealogy@sog.org.uk, or through the comments facility on this page. Alternatively you can comment via the Society of Genealogists’ Facebook page or follow Else on twitter @SoGGenealogist

TNA has drafted the Terms of Reference for The National Archives’ User Advisory Group

The role of the User Advisory Group is to:

 Provide an opportunity for users of The National Archives to get involved in the organisations planning and decision making process at an early stage and a strategic level.

Provide an opportunity for The National Archives to seek structured advice and feedback from our user communities on specific developments and decisions, via a formal closed group, which actively represents the diverse interests, concerns and agendas of our user communities. Provide balanced and holistic representation from the diverse sections of our user community and an opportunity for dialogue between representatives of these groups. Act as a two way communications channel between The National Archives and our user communities.

Provide a voice, through representation, for users who may not be able to make use of the other engagement channels provided by The National Archives.
 

The role of the User Advisory Group is distinct from:

The role of the User Forum which is an open forum held regularly on site at The National Archives. However, it is likely that there will be links and communication channels between the 2 groups, in both directions.

Executive responsibility of The National Archives’ formal governance structure, including all of its constituent parts.
Any other consultative or advisory group or body not listed above.

Method of engagement

The User Advisory Group consists of invited delegates who represent the following sections of our user community:
On site, personal interest researchers
Independent (paid) researchers
Academic researchers
Researchers based primarily in the Map and Large Document Reading Room
Researchers interested in the diversity / inclusion / access agenda
County / external archives
Genealogy / family history societies
Online users (Initially, on site users will be represented by a member of The National Archives’ staff. During 2011 – 2012, we will be running a formal work stream to improve opportunities for engagement with online users).

The National Archives commits to:

Manage and Chair the meetings effectively, to promote productive communication and discussion.
Set the dates of the meetings in advance and communicate these effectively so as to allow delegates to plan their attendance.
Circulate agendas and minutes of the meetings in a timely manner. Communicate effectively with delegates interregnum, as appropriate.

Delegates should commit to:


Respect the roles and opinions of the other delegates, the Chair and other staff in attendance.
Make every effort to attend the meetings and act as a representative for a minimum of one year (4 meetings).
Make every effort to effectively represent, feed back to and communicate with their user community; to include the publication of their names and contact details.
Show discretion in communicating what is discussed at the meetings and maintain confidentiality where instructed by the Chair or other staff members.

Constitution of the User Advisory Group
The User Advisory Group will meet 4 times a year with:
The Director of Operations and Services (co-chair) The Director of Customer and Business Development (co-chair) The Customer Intelligence Manager The Customer Research manager The Customer Intelligence Officer (online user representative)
Additional members of staff will be made available depending upon agenda topics.
Agendas for meetings will be published in advance of, and full minutes will be published following the meetings.

Resources
We will make limited resources available to support the User Advisory Group:
Publicise the dates of the meetings and the contact details of delegates, online, onsite and in publications where appropriate.
Provide meeting space, refreshments and facilities for the meetings, as required.
Where appropriate, provide reasonable resources to allow delegates to communicate and meet with members of the communities they represent (to include space on our notice boards and meeting rooms where available).

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London Metropolitan Archives invited representatives of the London genealogy community to attend its first Family History Forum at the archive on 20 April 2011. This was attended by the Genealogist from the Society of Genealogists, and representatives from the Federation of Family History Societies, North West Kent FHS, London, Westminster and Middlesex FHS, East Surrey FHS, and the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain. The meeting was chaired by Deborah Jenkins (Assistant Director: Heritage).  Society of Genealogists report on London Metropolitan Archives Family History Forum

A lot has happened in the London archive community recently with the Guildhall Library, Archives and Art Gallery having been amalgamated with the London Metropolitan Archives bringing effective control of 3 services under the Corporation of London. The recent partnership with Ancestry.co.uk to digitise records sets of genealogical, social and local significance has very much changed the nature of the service provided by the archives. The forum was called to update the family history community on issues affecting LMA.

CUTS

Sadly, though perhaps inevitably in the current climate, the first item on the agenda was a statement by David Pearson (Director: Libraries, Archives and Guildhall Art Gallery Department) about the requirement for the department to make savings of 15.9% in its budget for 2011-12. Having been consulting users via the LMA website and drop in meetings since March the department is now pretty much ready to decide how it will make these savings. Yes it will mean reduced opening hours, fewer Saturday openings and compulsory redundancies amongst the staff.

As this procedure is still in process we have no news yet of how much expertise or resource will be lost from the archive and this must clearly be unsettling for staff. The new online catalogue has meant a 30% increase in the number of document ordered and delivered at the archive (some76,000 over the year with nearly 90% of them delivered within 20 minutes). There were 29,000 visitors – all be it 6% drop on the previous year. It will be interesting to see how after the cuts LMA can continue to provide services to such numbers or continue to receive the high satisfaction feed back it currently receives via user surveys or its leading 4* position under TNA’s archive assessment scheme.

Essentially LMA will close on Fridays and will be open only one Saturday a month. This will take place from November after the stock taking week, having given a suitable period for notice etc for staff. To compensate in some way for this LMA will be introducing longer opening hours on Wednesdays making late night opening to 7.30pm on Tuesday -Thursdays. A significant number of people had asked LMA not to close on the same day as other major repositories. (Both TNA and SoG are closed on Mondays) making it possible to do some research at least in London on this day. The number of researchers on Saturdays has been falling dramatically and it will be reviewed in a year whether to continue to open on Saturday. So this means if you want LMA to remain open on Saturdays it’s a case of use it or lose it.


DIGITISATION

Charlotte Shaw (Head of Collections and Systems) provided an overview on the last two years partnership with Ancestry.co.uk to digitise and make available significant LMA collections. Phase one of the project is progressing steadily with C of E parish registers, Board of Guardian Records, School and Nonconformist registers having come on stream. In the next few months the diocesan wills formerly held in LMA and Guildhall will be online and indexed with electoral registers up to 1965 and City of London Freedom records to follow.

Stage two of the project is seeing negotiations with the various city livery companies to allow the deposited records from the Guildhall to be digitised and made available. This will not include those livery company records retained by the companies themselves. 2012 will see the inclusion of the City & Tower Hamlets Cemetery records and some Session Records.

Questions were raised about omissions in the digitised records and misattributions. It was made clear that some older films NOT created by LMA itself were OMMITTED from the Ancestry project as they were not of suitable quality. Also films were digitised only when LMA had copies of the original records and permission from the authorities for their use. LMA seemed unaware of the problems of the mis-attribution of some of the sources supposedly included by Ancestry.co.uk. The SoG Genealogist promised to provide a link to some comments on this information.

Miriam Silverman (Ancestry: UK Content Manager) followed up with more information about the future projects. Ancestry’s scanners continue to process records at LMA. They are currently working on the Guildhall and LMA Collections of Poll Books and the Overseas Returns. The London wills number nearer 400,000 which a much larger number than had initially been thought to exist. A broader spectrum of records will include parish confirmations, Middlesex transported convict records, Surrey Marriage Bonds and Allegations, London Land Tax and London Poll books though they will also be including the Guildhall’s copies of poll books for places outside London. It is hoped that most of the records will be indexed with a pilot of the early poor law records under way through Ancestry’s World Archives Projects that allows volunteers at home to index images of the records made available to the community.

There was discussion about the updating and improvements made to any mistakes or omissions in the indexing or transcription of records. Work is being done to identify and amend any problems across collections in addition to using the correction and amendment procedures already made available to users of the Ancestry site. Essentially any one who has discovered errors and problems should let LMA and Ancestry know about it.

NEW ACCESSIONS

Nicola Avery (Principal Archivist, Archives Systems) provided a list of some of the new accessions recently acquired by LMA. Some of which were made available to view in the conservation room after the meeting. These include records for several churches and religious institutions, a copy of a missing interment register for Darenth Assylum and an accumulated register of the City of London School 19000-1920. LMA is currently negotiating the deposit of the registers of All Hallows Barking by the Tower – one of the last 2 city parishes to deposit its records.

PUBLIC ROOMS

In addition to some of the statistics mentioned above Tim Harris (Head of Access and Buildings) reported on issues relating to the physical care of the building. One significant point to note is that a service lift is to be refurbished between November and December which will affect the production of records. If anything it might be better to avoid making a visit in this period and certainly give lots of notice using the advanced ordering facility on the online catalogue. One interesting point to note from the results of the user survey is that for the first time the percentage of users reporting their interest as genealogical was down to 60% with 40% saying they had other reasons for using the record office.

The next meeting of the LMA User forum will be in September. In the meantime anyone interested in receiving information about new and events from LMA can sign up for the electronic newsletter

PRONI online wills project shows how it should be done

Family Historians should be very impressed with the Public Record Office of Northern Ireleand’s (PRONI) project to provide and index and images of wills from 1858. It’s a model for others to follow and a very good reason for suggesting that the historic post 1858 probate records for England and Wales should not be under the jurisdiction of the Courts Service but rather transferred to an agency that knows how to look after and make accessible popular records used by genealogists. However given that there are over 20 million wills held by the Court service I guess it will be some time before these  are all made availeble online.

The PRONI website application provides a free fully searchable index to the will calendar entries for the three District Probate Registries of Armagh, Belfast and Londonderry, with the facility to view the entire will calendar entry for each successful search.  The database covers the period 1858-1919 and 1922-1943.  Part of 1921 has been added, with remaining entries for 1920-1921 to follow in the near future. 

Digitised images of entries from the copy will books covering the period 1858-1900 are now available online, allowing users to view the full content of a will.  93,388 will images are now available to view.

The Society of Genealogists’ online guide to using Probate Records is avilaible on the SoG webiste

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Genealogists may find TNA’s Rediscovering the Record Project interesting

David Thomas, Director of Technology at The National Archives, has announced the concept behind The National Archives’ Rediscovering the Records project on his first TNA’s Labs blog

The Rediscovering the Record project takes in hand the redesign of TNA’s two major catalogues and some new search functions including geographic based searches making it possible to  link from maps to related to records.

The TNA’s labs project is similar to the  FamilySearch Labs projects that have been around for some time now. These labs projects include beta testing for developments within familiar sites such as the Familysearch.org, but without actually changing the main site. Putting the lab site up for a while means it can be thoroughly tested. I’ve been using the 1851 English jurisdictions date on labs.familysearch for some time now and it has a lot in common with TNA labs and had become more and more useful to me as it improved.

Comments can be fed back to the development team and these are open for others to see. Suggestions will lead to further tweeks and alterations. When I used the site there were obviously some teething problems – functions seemed to freeze but evidently I wasn’t the only one having problems. I got a good feel for some of the new possibilities within the proposed “person search” functions that should improve results when searching across name rich database and catalogue entries on the TNA website. The new person search makes it clear what sets of records with good name information exists at TNA and canny readers will have noted this  search is being integrated as a beta test within he main TNA website.

I didn’t have such a great experience with the other “new” test areas. The Valuation Office Map Finder and the UK History Photo Finder potentially sound really interesting. Photfinder allows you to search and view digitised historical photographs of the UK and Ireland, starting with the Dixon-Scott collection, which holds more than 14,000 photographs taken in the 1920s-1940s. However in order to discover what places are covered both seem to rely on a wizzy map link from interactive OS mapping or a dedicated place name list in drop down boxes. Sadly neither of those worked for me. But I’ve done my bit and reported this as feedback so I’ll see what they do to improve it. Other comments show people have successfully seen it working and have suggested interesting ways to present the information and to link to similar initiatives using similar mapping and historic photo information.

Collaboration on sites like The National Archives Labs  through its  comments and related wikis and forums, draw upon the greater collective experience and knowledge the users often have about specific records. As more people can test and comment about the site the more user-friendly it might become.

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Natalie Ceenie steps down as TNA Chief Executive

Natalie Ceeney CBE, Chief Executive of The National Archives, announced today (Monday 11 January) that she will be leaving in mid-March, to take on a new role as Chief Executive of the Financial Ombudsman Service.

natalie ceeney Natalie Ceenie steps down as TNA Chief Executive

Natalie Ceeney

Natalie has been Chief Executive since 2005, and the past four and a half years has seen some significant changes to TNA under her leadership. The National Archives has moved firmly towards the digital age and concentration of digital information management, while providing access to its collection and expertise to an increasingly wide and diverse audience.

The Ministry of Justice will be handling the recruitment of Natalie’s successor through open competition. In the intervening period the Ministry has asked Oliver Morley, currently Director of Customer and Business Development, to take over as interim Chief Executive. In his current role, Oliver is responsible for customer, product and service strategy, partnership and business development, trading services, and marketing and communications. His team led the launch of the online 1911 census and many other leading historical content services via the relaunched nationalarchives.gov.uk. Prior to The National Archives, Oliver was at Thomson Reuters, with global responsibility for improving information services for customers.

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