The National Archives Archives


The National Archives is looking for help to trial online community

banner1 The National Archives is looking for help to trial online community

The SoG has been asked to pass the following request onto the family history community

The National Archives needs you!

The National Archives is looking for volunteers to take part in an online community pilot. They need your help to trial an online community to see if it could help them develop and improve their online services. They’ll be using the community to get feedback on new features and functions they’re developing, as well as creating a space for generating new ideas. As a test they are controlling the number of people who can sign up, so to start with they only need 100 volunteers who will be signed up on a first come, first served basis. They will also keep the community closed so that only members can view and interact with the content. If you are not selected for the initial trial, you’ll be able to join their waiting list – they’ll then notify you if they decide to expand the community and increase the number of members. The trial will run for six months between March and August 2012. If they then decide that the trial has been successful, they will aim to establish a permanent community as part of their package of online services. Please register your interest to take part in the pilot by providing some basic details by clicking on the following link: http://www.dotsurvey.me/b2mand7-4e3ir3b

 

I hope to be taking part in this exercise too so that TNA’s support for family historians can impove.

 

All the best

 

Else

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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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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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The National Archives Announces Catalogue and Documents Online Updates

Updates from TNA

For those who couldn’t attend the recent (and excellent) Catalogue Awareness Day, The National Archives has announced the completion of various cataloguing projects and gives some information on various new and ongoing projects on it website.

Details of some of the completed cataloguing projects including the addition of the surnames of the parties in C11 Chancery Pleadings 1714-1758 or the conversion of many of the old supplementary finding aids can be found on the catalogue projects pages of TNA’s website .

TNA has some interesting projects on the go including the cataloguing of some of the  MH 12 Poor Law Unions Correspondence with the Poor Law Commissioners and the cataloguing of Royal Navy Medical Officers Journals. See TNA’s website for details.

Also of note are the new additions to  TNA’s DocumentsOnline  service of  the Royal Navy logs of ships on exploration.  There are 164 volumes of logbooks of the Royal Navy’s voyages of scientific discovery, from series ADM 55, now available to search and download.

The Pacific, the Arctic, Australia and beyond.
Mostly kept by naval captains, masters, lieutenants and masters’ mates, these volumes offer a first-hand account of the day-to-day activities of the exploration party, giving a picture of life aboard ship. The information in the logs and journals was used by the Hydrographic Office to produce charts and other data.

Many famous officers kept logs held in this collection, including James Cook, William Bligh and Matthew Flinders. Covering numerous areas across the globe, the records were made between 1757 and 1861, except those of the ‘Morning’, which were made in 1904.

Climate change research
The logs also include scientific information gathered during a voyage and detailed daily accounts of the weather they encountered.  The meteorological observations in these logbooks have become a very valuable source of climatic information for scientists today and have therefore been digitised as part of the UK Colonial Registers and Royal Navy Logbooks (CORRAL) project, funded by the Joint Information System Committee (JISC).

It usally costs £2.00 to download a log book or journal from DocumentsOnline, at home but you can download the index of ships within catalogue reference ADM 55 free of charge. Documents online can of course be searched free of charge at TNA, Kew or in the Society of Genealogists’ Library.

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New Online Resources from TNA Available Free at the SoG

In this week of Remembrance The National Archives have published  datasets for RAF Officers and Soldiers of the First World War. Both these datasets can be viewed free of charge on the Society of Genealogists Library.


 
The National Archives has made 99,000 RAF officers’ service records available online through its Documents Online pay per view service for the first time. These records are easily searchable by first name, last name and date of birth, and were previously only accessible to visitors at the Kew site. The courageous aviators of the early Royal Air Force (RAF) played a crucial role in Britain’s victory in the First World War. Among the service records available are some of the country’s most celebrated and famous pilots – known as ‘Aces’ for having shot down five or more enemy aircraft. Documents Online is available free of charge at the SoG Library

In addition and in partnership with The National Archives, Ancestry.co.uk has now made available online the entire collection of British Army World War One Service Records, 1914-1920, detailing the full military careers of more than two million soldiers who served during World War One. Ancesry.co.uk is available free of charge at the SoG library

Service records contain a variety of information concerning all aspects of the army careers of those who completed their duty were killed in action or executed. They include the soldier’s name, date and place of birth, address, next-of-kin, former occupation, marital status, medical records, service history, regiment number, locations of service and discharge papers.

The files were chosen for digitisation because they are one of the most popular resources accessed at The National Archives and, prior to now, only available in microfilm format. Digitising the microfilm records makes these valuable records easier to search and more accessible to a wider audience.

Approximately 60 per cent of the paper originals of the service records were destroyed by fire when the War Office (in London) was struck by a bomb in 1940 during an air raid. The surviving 32.5 million records became known as the ‘Burnt Documents’.

Together, the service and pension records form the definitive source of information in existence on more than three million ordinary soldiers who fought in the British Army during World War One. The sheer volume of material has meant that the collection has been digitised in stages. The final tranche of digitised files comprised of those records from O to Z.  The process has taken three years to complete.

Among the surviving service records are those of a number of both brave soldiers and celebrities, including :

Basil Rathbone – the British actor, best known for the portrayal of Sherlock Holmes in 14 movies between 1939 and 1946, enlisted in the London Scottish Regiment in 1916. The discharge papers within his service record describe his eyes and hair as ‘dark’ and his complexion as ‘fresh’.

George Peachment – George’s service record reveals he was awarded the Victoria Cross – an accolade he received for his bravery in saving the life of an officer near Hulluch, France, where he was later killed in action. His record also features a letter from his mother requesting his personal effects after his death and a journalist requesting a photograph of him.

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