Free help to anyone starting their family history

By Daniel Cossins, 24 July 2009 - 9:27am

I’m glad to say the Society of Genealogists is in the position to do something positive to help family historians and relieve pressure on staff at The National Archives.

The Society of Genealogists has received confirmation of continued funding from the City Bridge Trust to support free community family history access area at the Society’s library in Clerkenwell, London.

This means anyone (at least anyone who can get to London) who needs personal help with starting their family history, and using censuses and GRO indexes online, can book a free session with our community officer Ashley. Get more details on our website: www.sog.org.uk/library/openaccess.pdf.

One of the strains clearly placed on staff at TNA is the number of people who turn up thinking TNA is the place to start tracing their family history.

With the General Register Office having withdrawn completely from a public and personal search presence and TNA offering resources to provide access to recent indexes of births, marriages and deaths from 2006, TNA has found itself putting staff time and resource in to helping family historians use records for which TNA has absolutely no statutory responsibility. There’s certainly could be argued that GRO has abrogated its own responsibility and left others to do its job.

In the meantime I’ll certainly be interested to hear what General Register Office has to say about any progress in the current economic climate with its own plans to make better online indexes to births, marriages and deaths.

The General Register Office (which is now part of the Identity and Passport office) has asked me to tell the family history community about its next User Forum which will take place at 1pm, Thursday 17 September 2009 at Westminster House, Portland Street, Manchester. I’ll be attending on behalf of the SoG but GRO tells me it would welcome family historians in general.

So if anyone else wants to represent a family history organization and have the opportunity to offer feedback on a variety of topics, please contact either Madeleine Brammah/Honora Ormesher on 0151 471 4530/4508 or by email at GROevents@ips.gov.uk. The agenda for the meeting and full details will be sent out to you once you have received confirmation of attendance. If the forum is oversubscribed for this event, a list of names will be kept to be contacted for future User Group Forums.

I have my doubts that we’ll hear anything positive form GRO and when one sees the absolute retrenchment into online access and ordering that this Government agency has made, the commitment TNA makes to keeping personal access to records is actually remarkable.

Else Churchill, Society of Genealogists

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