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Tip of the day...Records/Archive offices

ProfilePosted byOptionsPost Date

Jonesey

Jonesey Report 6 Nov 2009 08:33

There comes a time when the internet cannot provide an answer and you may need to visit a record/archive office to discover more information or proof. Offices exist in many locations and hold an amazing collection of records covering many activities. These can include parish records, court records, old electoral registers, old newspapers and even the files of old long closed local businesses.

If you decide that a visit is necessary it pays to plan ahead to make sure that everything goes smoothly. The first thing needed is to find out which office is likely to hold the records that you wish to examine. Googling the town or county name + Records office will usually provide you with the office’s address and telephone number. It is then worth ringing to make sure that they hold the records that you are interested in.

A lot of records are now available on microfiche so whilst on the phone it is a good idea to enquire whether microfiche readers have to be booked in advance. If the records are paper ones check to discover whether they are always available. Certain types of records such as medical ones may need special permission to view them.

If you are visiting for the first time you will be asked to prove your identity. This measure is necessary as you are being given access to irreplaceable documents. Remember to take along something like a utility bill which will prove that you live where you say you do plus something like a driving licence or bank card will as proof of signature. Once the office is satisfied that you are who you say you are you will be issued with a “Readers” card (CARN Ticket) which in most cases is valid for 4 years. Some records offices have a reciprocal arrangement with other offices so you may find that your CARN ticket automatically gives you unchecked access to them as well.

To protect the documents records offices understandably have strict rules as to what items you will be allowed to take into the office with you. As a rule of thumb assume that you will only be allowed to take in pencils (Not pens) and paper. Any food or drink is definitely banned. Some offices have lockers where other personal items may be secured and some have a designated area where you can take refreshment.

Plan the purpose of your visit meticulously. Know in advance which records you wish to see rather than those you hope to find. Don’t be afraid to solicit the help of staff members to guide you towards other records which may help you. Archivists usually have a great deal of knowledge about the records they have and what might be contained within them. Make sure that you use their expertise.

Good luck with your research.

Jilliflower

Jilliflower Report 6 Nov 2009 08:38

Good morning uncle Jonesey,
How do you know what I want to know?
And that is the question - knowing what I want to know!
Your tips are guiding me along nicely thank you - I had wondered abut readers' card
Love
Jill

Kay????

Kay???? Report 6 Nov 2009 08:44

Hi Jonesey.

You could also point out,,this is a hobby that you MUST be prepared to spend some money on at certain times as some certificates are a must.also getting some read-up material on tracing before heading into the unknown.;

Good informative threads btw.

brummiejan

brummiejan Report 6 Nov 2009 09:55

I have just reached this point Jonesey so thanks! Would also say it is worth having a leisurely mooch around the place you visit and see what is there - I am fortunate to live in Birmingham (no snidey comments please) and they have records which cover lots of other places too.
Ta-ra a bit
Jan

AllanC

AllanC Report 6 Nov 2009 10:12

Talking about protecting documents, DON'T moisten your finger to help turn pages. If you've got some lightweight white cotton gloves so much the better; the record office may not insist on them but they'll make you look professional! You can buy them online from genealogy suppliers or you could try a specialist photographic shop. I was horrified recently watching a TV programme to see people handling precious 17th & 18th century music manuscripts without gloves.

And BTW the ban on eating and drinking includes bottled water and cough sweets!

Jonesey

Jonesey Report 6 Nov 2009 10:13

Janet,

Birmingham is a perfect example of why it is a good idea to speak to a records office in advance of your visit. The records office is on the 6th floor of the central library building but some of its records are stored in the basement of the building. Recently they had mechanical problems with their service lift which meant that although the records were in the building it was not possible to transport them to the records office itself.

Doubtless that caused frustration for those who had arrived on spec to view a particular record.

There were also some problems whereby although some records were held by the office, the staff were uncertain who to contact for permission to allow them to be viewed.

AllanC

AllanC Report 6 Nov 2009 10:23

The reciprocal arrangement between offices is generally by means of a CARN ticket. For details see http://www.ancestor-search.info/CRO-CARN.htm

You may still need to register at individual offices but they will accept a CARN ticket as proof of identity.

Jonesey

Jonesey Report 7 Nov 2012 08:57

Nudged up because the tip may be of some use to members who have joined GR within the last 3 years.

Good hunting.