Most people researching their family tree in the British Isles will eventually get past the census collections and the civil registrations and must now turn to the Parish records to proceed further. While, recently, there has been a great many more parish register collections being made available through the subscription sites, it is still not the case that a family historian will definitely find their ancestors parish has been uploaded online. Getting back before 1837 in England & Wales needs researchers to know where to look for the relevant details
Even if, however, we accept that we may need to make a visit to a physical archive, in order to push our research on, then we can certainly turn to the internet in order to locate where the parish records are. As well as this the web can undoubtedly save our selves time, when we do make the visit to the particular County Record Office or other archive, by being able to gain information provided by their website beforehand. In some cases they may even have their catalogue online which would allow us to do essential homework such as finding call numbers for the documents that we wish to look at and perhaps even ordering them up before we arrive.
In most cases, probably as much as ninety-nine percent of the time, we will find that the Parish Records for our ancestors have by now been deposited at the County Record Office, while a rare few will still be at the church in the care of the incumbent minister.
So where should we look first online?
A good starting point is to head over to the ARCHON page that is to be found in the website of The National Archives at www.nationalarchives.gov.uk and is a list of all sorts of archives in the country. The lists include diocesan archives, regimental and many other depositories that have a bearing on social history and genealogy.
From the National Achives home page navigate to the Records page and then to Catalogues and Online Records scroll down until you see the link for Archon. you will now be given a list of areas in Britain to search each with its own link so we see North East, North West etc. Selecting the area that you wish to look up will take you to an A-Z of repositories and if you were looking for a county record office this will be listed there.
Click on the relevant list and you will now be shown the information that ARCHON has on the archive in question giving you opening times etc and a very useful link to the actual archive’s website. I say useful because this is where you are likely to find the most up-to-date information about when they are open, if they have any late nights or Saturday opening times and how to get to them by road, rail, or air.
The actual repository’s website will give you such information as to what types of ID they accept, whether they are a member of the CARN ticket scheme where with one card you can gain access to many Record Offices across the country. Also the low down on whether you need to book a microfiche reader in advance of your arrival etc.
Some archive’s even include their catalogue online, this being a very useful tool as you can find out, in advance of your visit, if they hold the documents that you are looking for and also it allows you to take a note of the “call numbers” for the documents. This will cut down on wasting valuable research time, when you first arrive at the record office and indeed you may be able to order up, in advance, the documents to be waiting for you.
ARCHON is a most useful internet tool for those of us who are thinking about heading to an archive to do some research offline and is one of the ways to go about finding parish records.
I will be looking at others in a future post.