TNA Re-opening update: reading room bookings live from Monday 19 April
This afternoon The National Archives (TNA) sent out the following in an email. I am sure a lot of readers will be pleased about the news!
“In advance of our reading rooms re-opening on Tuesday 27 April, our new ‘book a visit to view our documents’ service will be live from noon (BST) on Monday 19 April.
We have developed this new service in response to visitor feedback. Seat reservations and advance document ordering must remain in place for now to help us manage our services in line with government and public health guidance. The new service will offer four weeks’ availability on a rolling basis, with new dates added daily. This means that, when it goes live on 19 April, you will be able to reserve a seat for dates between 27 April and 22 May (inclusive).
Our immediate priority will be to give access to as many people as possible and demand is likely to be high, as we have been closed for several months. We are therefore asking visitors to book a maximum of two visits in a rolling four-week period. We will keep this limit, and all of our arrangements, under regular review.
See our website for more details of the services that we will provide in our reading rooms from Tuesday 27 April, and read on for more details of the new booking service.”
News taken from TNA’s email newsletter 15 April 2021
The National Archives (TNA) have announced that they are increasing the access to the site at Kew. After welcoming back visitors into their reading rooms in July they are now able to expand their services and increase capacity, so that they can accommodate more visitors and give them greater access to TNA’s collections.
From Tuesday 25 August The National Archives will be opening up their second floor map and large document reading room, as well as increasing the number of seats available in the first floor document reading room. Visitors will also be able to order more documents each day (nine instead of six), and TNA will also have a small number of two-day appointments available for visitors wishing to research bulk document orders (between 20 and 40).
All visitors are still required to book their visit and order their documents in advance.
The National Archives report that their building and services will look very different to regular visitors, as they’ve been busy introducing a number of measures to ensure the safety of their visitors and staff. These include:
New booking system to help them manage visitor numbers – all visits have to be pre-booked without exception, with a limit of one visit per week, and all documents ordered in advance
New document delivery processes to protect visitors and staff, and to ensure that documents are quarantined appropriately
One-way systems and capacity controls in frequently used areas
Floor markers and temporary signage to help with social distancing
Rigorous cleaning during and at the end of each day
Easier access to sinks for hand washing and provision of hand sanitiser.
Due to a change in the law, all visitors will be required to wear face coverings during their visit.
In order to visit TNA they are asking everyone booking a visit to agree to a new coronavirus visitor charter, aimed at encouraging all visitors to do their bit to help them ensure everyone’s safety. TNA will not permit anyone to enter the building who has not pre-booked, so please do not travel if you have not been able to book as they will not be able to let you in. The National Archives are open from Tuesday to Friday, between 10:00 and 14:50.
While they are currently able to provide access to their first floor document reading room and second floor map and large document reading room only – their other facilities will remain closed, including the reference library, exhibition spaces, shop, and the cafés. TNA say they will also be unable to provide many of their other usual reading room services, including, access to microfilm and microfiche, research advice, record copying and access to the computers.
In the current times TNA say that they will continue to provide free downloads of digital records on their website for the time being, as they are initially only able to re-open for a very limited number of researchers. This, ofcourse, and all of TNA opening arrangements are under constant review.
The National Archives (TNA) will welcome visitors back into its reading rooms from Tuesday 21 July 2020 in the UK. At this time it will be offering a limited service to visitors, who will be required to book their visit and order their documents in advance. This is the start of the new normal for researchers while the country eases out of lockdown from the pandemic.
Using examples of records and case studies relating to both immigrants and emigrants held in The National Archives at Kew (U.K.) collection, this talk will explain how to search for and interpret records such as passenger lists, passports, registration and naturalisation records.
This talk will be delivered by Roger Kershaw, Migration Records Specialist at The National Archives in the U.K.
On my recent visit to my father I got to talking to him about his mother, my grandmother, and her service in both of the World Wars.
What I gathered from his recollection of her was that in WWII she had been a Leading Petty Officer Wren (WRNS) stationed at Devonport while he was a teen-aged schoolboy. She was living in a flat off the Hoe until the blast from a bomb in one of the raids on Plymouth forced her to find a safer flat on the fringe of Dartmoor. Moving to an ex-nursing home within fifty yards of the Railway station at Bickleigh, with a line into Plymouth, she saw service with the Women’s Royal Naval Service throughout the conflict.
It also transpires that in the First World War, as well, she had served in the dockyard before her marriage to my grandfather in 1918. This opened up my mind to the possibility of doing some research into her time in Devenport.
With this information about her First World War service I was fascinated to find that The National Archives (TNA) have an on-demand webinar (first put online in 2015) that can help researchers understand what records survive at TNA for women who served in the First World War.
Disclosure: Please note this post contains affiliate links.
I was asked to put together an article on Buckinghamshire Tithe Maps this week as TheGenealogist has added more Colour Tithe Maps from The National Archives to their National Tithe Records collection. With this release researchers can see the plots owned or occupied by ancestors that lived in this ‘home county’ at the time of the survey in the 19th century on colour plans.
The new data includes:
Over 40,000 Plots of Land covering the years from 1837 to 1855 with some much later plans of altered apportionments
Joining the apportionment record books and the previously published grey-scale maps
These tagged colour maps and their fully searchable tithe schedule records are from those held at The National Archives. The collection gives the family history researcher the ability to search by name and keyword (for example parish or county) to look for all levels of society from large estate owners to occupiers of tiny plots such as a cottage or a cowshed.
Disclosure: Please note this post contains affiliate links.
I learnt quite a bit about black sheep ancestors this week while researching a convict who had served some time on a prison hulk anchored off Bermuda. My findings helped me to write the article for TheGenealogist at the end of this post.
The prisoner, that the story is about, had been convicted of his offence in England and then, being fit and healthy, was shipped out to the British territory to do back breaking quarrying and building work. He was housed on a convict-hulk and put to work in the construction of the Royal Navy’s dockyard on the island. After completing his sentence he was then allowed back to England. But he got into trouble again and was sentenced to a further period of Transportation for seven years. (To find out where he ended up you will have to read the article – it is probably not where you may expect him to be sent.)
I learnt from my research that many of our convict ancestors, who were sent to Australia, were never permitted to return – while those sent to the hulks at Bermuda were able to come home as long as they served the full sentence. The convicts on the hulks at Bermuda could, however, opt for a reduced sentence if they chose to go to Australia or South Africa. What they could not do is stay in Bermuda after their sentence and the option for South Africa, it seems, was not really available as when they got there they were refused entry and had to go on to Australia!
Here is the Press Release from TheGenealogist and the article link:
TheGenealogist has added 651,369 quarterly returns of convicts from The National Archives’ HO 8 documents to their Court & Criminal Records collection. Withthis release researchers can find the details of ancestors that broke the law and were incarcerated in convict hulks and prisons in the 19th century.
The new data includes:
651,369 Records covering the years 1824 to 1854
Quarterly returns from Convict Hulks, Convict Prisons and Criminal Lunatic Asylums
These fully searchable records are from the The Home Office: Sworn lists of convicts on board the convict hulks and in the convict prisons (HO 8).They give the family history researcher fascinating facts that include the particulars of age, convictions, sentences, health and behaviour of the convict, as well as which court sentenced them and where they were serving their sentence.
Read TheGenealogist’s article “Criminal records of convicts on the Hulks” at:
I’m just back from a flying visit to The National Archives at Kew.
Every time I visit TNA I get something out of it and today was no exception! I discovered the delights of records that are not available anywhere else to search.
I went along to research several different lines of enquiries, one of which was for an ancestor of mine who had given his profession on his son’s baptism as ‘tide waiter’. This is a type of customs officer who waits for the ships that come in on the tide and then checks them for contraband or goods that are subject to duty. He was in one of the census as a Customs Officer and has appeared as this in some family notes I received from a distant cousin.
My initial research using the Discovery search engine on www.nationalarchives.gov.uk had me confused. A few minutes with the help desk staff on the first floor reading room, however, pointed me towards the microfilms of the CUST 39/3 that are the records for the establishment at the different ports – basically the Staff Lists with details of staff employed by the Board of Customs.
I was able to spool forward to Plymouth, where my man was based and where in the 1851 census he was recorded as a Customs house officer. So if he had been a tidewater then his name would have been entered into the list of the Plymouth establishment. Alas, he was nowhere to be found which backs up my developing theory that he was an ‘Extra Gent’ (not on the establishment) customs officer and that he, or someone else, may have exaggerated a bit on his son’s baptismal record!
I then ordered up some Customs minutes books (CUST 28/199) and looked at any mention of Plymouth and names of Customs officers there. What I came away with was a much better understanding of the records and how, if you are lucky enough to find your ancestor mentioned you can build a fair bit of colour to your family story. This would especially be true if your Customs Officer got himself into trouble. One of the original 1850s ledgers that I was able to thumb through was the Outport Records: Charges against Officers (CUST 66/217).
I didn’t find my ancestor mentioned in the book, but for those researchers who are able to find a forebear then it will be of great interest to them. The thick leather bound books with heavy bluish paper provide a fascinating insight into the discipline proceedings. The various cases are often recorded on the page verbatim. You can thus read the question asked by the Surveyor of the man before him and the answers given by the accused Tide Waiter. At the end you will find the verdict of whether the Customs Officer was to loose his job or not. All of which is written in the neat handwriting of a clerk from 167 years ago.
None of these records are digitized and so it is another example of why a visit to TNA can allow you to get to see records that just aren’t available elsewhere. So while I do a lot of my research online I always enjoy getting out to The National Archives, or a County Record Office, every now and again to delve into those records that are in their safekeeping but not digitized.
We all know that we can find our ancestors’ address in the census taken between 1841 and 1911 in the U.K.
But we should remember that, just as we may have moved several times in between the last time that we were enumerated, so did our ancestors.
I was researching a particular forebear of mine and had got hold of his army service records. I was drawn to his address at the time of his attestation and then at the end of the war. The address had changed as a result of he and his wife going through a divorce.
I was recently in The National Archives in Kew and just adjacent to the area where The London Family History Centre has its area, located in the Reading Room of TNA, was a shelf of Trades, Residential and Court directories. While I had some time to wait for some research documents to be delivered, I began browsing these books. What I noticed was that if I looked through the different years, for my ancestor’s county, I could see that my subject moved around his home town a bit more frequently than I had previously supposed.
You don’t need to go to and archive, library or record office to find your ancestors in these directories as they can be easily accessed on many of the data websites as well.
Other records that can be used to map out the movements of an ancestor include the addresses given on civil registration certificates of birth, marriage and death and all sorts of other records that were created when our forebears came up against authority in its many guises.
My visit to The National Archives was to take a look at a court document that referred to my ancestor and there again it revealed yet another address for him.
It was at this stage that I realised that it would be a good idea if I started some notes on my mobile family member and so I began recording the dates and his various abodes in a list.
There are modules in my online course that look at the many different records that we are lucky in this country to get access to in more depth. If you are researching your ancestors from England and Wales and have hit a brick wall then my online Family History Researcher Academy course is available here:
The course can be started and completed in your own time with 52 weekly tutorials being made available to you over a one year period. Currently I have some tempting offers so take a look before the price increases!
Sometimes I am reminded that family historians can make assumptions that others understand what we mean when we refer to records and archives.
I was talking to a man at a bar recently and with a drink in hand he asked me to educate him a bit about this genealogy pastime of mine.
It was when I had got to the bit where I was explaining about records and how they are kept in archives and other repositories and he said to me:
“So when you go to one of these libraries, how do you know if they have the records that you are looking for?”
That was when I realised that, in his mind, he saw an archive as just a sort of library, with loads of dusty records sitting on the shelves just waiting for us to go in browse a little and then find our ancestors within the files.
Notwithstanding that some archives share a building with a library (I am thinking of Portsmouth and Birmingham to name just two) I had to explain that they were really very different beasts. It is complicated by some major libraries having collections of records that are relevant to our ancestor research – the likes of universities, the British Library and so on – but generally a library and an archive are not the same thing.
‘Archives resemble retail catalogue showrooms, in which customers use a catalogue to identify the items they require, which are then fetched from storage areas by members of staff.’
I so loved the analogy of browsing a sort of genealogical Argos where we select a record collection in which to research our ancestors. Inevitably I used it in my conversation and immediately saw a realisation cross the face of my friend at the bar.
I gave him an example of a recent visit I made to The National Archives. I used the Discovery catalogue to look for a particular person, whom I was researching, and found that TNA held his 1919 divorce papers. I was able to select it from the online catalogue, book myself a seat at a table in the reading room and then wait for the archive staff to bring the file of documents to be collected from the locker.
By now examining the bundle of papers I was able to understand that my subject had been divorced by his wife as he would not return home to her after fighting at the Somme in the First World War. Who knows the exact human details of the case, but the court ordered him to return to her or his marriage would be legally ended. The result was that he refused and so they were divorced; but happily they remarried at a much later date.
By also ordering up his service papers I discovered that, as he waited to be demobbed, he was being treated for depression as a result of his experiences in the war.
So my drinking acquaintance now understood that it was not simply a case of browsing down the shelves of a library, where all the books are arranged alphabetically by subject to find what we required, but that records were catalogued by reference in an archive and that we order up what we want from the strong rooms in which they are held.
The subject of how archives reference those records in their catalogue is another matter altogether. If you want to learn more then you could do a lot worse than reading the chapter on Archives in Tracing Your Pre-Victorian Ancestors by John Wintrip.
Disclosure: Compensated affiliate links used above