Sample baptism certificate used by RAF chaplains from AIR 82/1
If you need a copy of a birth, marriage or death certificate issued in the United Kingdom, you need to apply to the General Register Office for England and Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, as appropriate. Before civil registration began the main sources of information on these vital events are parish registers, usually held in local archives.
Many family historians will find all the entries that they ever need in one or other of these sets of records. So you might not think that The National Archives will have much to offer in this area. In fact, we have a surprisingly large number of records relating to births, marriages and deaths, in a variety of record series. They include many registers of baptisms, banns and burials, as well as births, marriages and deaths. There are thousands of files, and most of them fall into four main categories:
- Nonconformist and non-parochial registers, mainly from the 18thand early 19thcenturies, handed in to the Registrar General of England and Wales.
- Registers from British consulates, legations and embassies, found among the records of the Foreign Office.
- Records of births and deaths on merchant vessels at sea, reported to the Board of Trade.
- Records created or collected by the various armed services.
This last category is in many ways the most interesting, for a number of reasons. For sheer variety it is hard to beat with a date range of more than 300 years and entries from all over the world and, unlike most of the others, new items are still being added to the collection. The earliest record in the collection is a baptism register from Sheerness Dockyard, starting in 1688.
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The Technology Strategy Board has just awarded The National Archives our first Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP). The programme provides funding for a partnership between a company and an academic institution or research organisation, serving as a ‘knowledge base’. The KTP programme is designed to inject new thinking and expertise into business, and help develop more robust and informed responses to business priorities. It is currently funded by 15 government organisations and led by the Technology Strategy Board. Each partnership is part-funded by Government with the balance of the costs coming from the company partner.
This is the first time The National Archives will be entering into a KTP since being granted the status of a Knowledge Base in 2012. We will be working with The IMC Group, which incorporates the Hanwell range of intelligent environmental monitoring and control products that accurately measure and monitor areas with potential risk of damage within museums, galleries, historic buildings, libraries and archives. The National Archives has been awarded 67% of the cost of the project by the scheme and the IMC Group will contribute the remaining 33% to the project as company partner. The project will see the transfer of our knowledge and expertise in collection care to develop specialised software for risk-based assessment of environmental conditions in storage of cultural heritage collections, aiming to incorporate energy considerations, emerging standards and scientific knowledge. Continue reading »
My role here at The National Archives is to carry out and manage customer research and make sure that the voice of the customer is heard. When I say ‘customer research’, I don’t mean the historical research that our users explore but rather researching the needs, wants and expectations of our customers. This can involve a whole host of activities including focus groups, interviews, sitting next to someone at a computer observing how they behave and even asking people to fill out diaries of their experiences for us to look at. All of which is helps us improve the services we offer, with our users at the heart of it.
The community in action
One audience which has always been a challenge to get in depth and real time feedback from is the ‘online user’. A dauntingly large group which incorporates over 13 million people a year carrying out a huge breadth of tasks for a huge number of reasons. Some of them are regular visitors while some visit just once never to return again. With such a broad and diverse audience, how can we make sure individuals get their opinions heard and how can we get them more involved in what we do? Myself and colleague James Lawson set up a project team to find a solution.
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Research at The National Archives is going from strength to strength! We have more good news to report as The Thames Consortium, comprised of The National Maritime Museum, The National Portrait Gallery and The National Archives has been awarded six Collaborative Doctoral Partnerships (CDPs) per year for the next three years to support doctoral students.
Page of the order book of the Sequestration Committee includes an entry relating to the case of Lady Mary Bankes, who was attempting to secure the return of family estates on behalf of her children while at the same time attempting to defend Corfe Castle from falling into the hands of Parliament (SP 20/1, vol 3, 22 September 1645)
The CDP studentships are distributed by the Arts and Humanities Research Council to sustain and promote high-quality research and skills in the sector. Maintaining the skills base in the arts and humanities is vital, and The National Archives will now be able to extend more opportunities for interdisciplinary research, knowledge exchange and training. We are really pleased to be involved and are thrilled that students will have access to a museum, an art gallery and an archive through which to explore their themes.
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I imagine the past couple of weeks have been pretty busy for the British Embassy to the Holy See, but they probably have nothing on 1978, otherwise known as the Year of Three Popes.
Pope Benedict XVI’s recent decision to step down as leader of the Roman Catholic Church – the first pope to abdicate in almost six centuries – opens the way for the unusual situation of two popes living in the Vatican at the same time.
In 1978, in the space of three tumultuous months between August and October, the Roman Catholic Church had no less than three different leaders: Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul I and Pope John Paul II. I’ve been looking back through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) files from the period to see how British officials at the legation (as it was then) in Rome dealt with the fast-changing situation.
Poland's Cardinal Wojtyla became the third pope of 1978. (catalogue ref: FCO 33/3787)
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Looking back over our blogs from the past year, there are many examples of how we are working hard at The National Archives to make our records as accessible as possible, whether it be through cataloguing
. This includes our advice service – you could have the most fantastic documents in the world, but they’re not much good if you can’t find them!
Live Chat is accessible through our website
Thanks largely to digitisation projects, our audience is now global and ever-expanding. In order to keep up with this, approximately a year ago we began trialling a new Live Chat service. This service is now part of our daily advice service from 11:00-15:00 GMT, allowing users anywhere in the world with access to the internet to connect with our advisers instantly.
As one of the ‘chatters’, Live Chat is one of the varied public duties I undertake each week. It is a great combination of the immediacy of a phonecall and the useful links that can be sent over email. It allows us to instantly point users to relevant parts of our website and know they are looking at the right page – a far cry from explaining step by step over the phone, or even by letter. Continue reading »
The indictment of Alice Sparke, who was put on trial for witchcraft on 23 March 1576. Document reference: ASSI 35/18/5 m 18.
You live in a village in 16th century England and you keep two cows. Sadly, your cows are not thriving and you are concerned for their welfare. Do you:
a) Change their diet?
b) Treat them with leeches?
c) Kill them, sell the meat and use the profit to buy better cows?
d) Accuse someone of bewitching them?
John Harvy, from Buntingford in Hertfordshire, chose option d. He accused a woman named Alice Sparke of being an ‘enchantress and witch’. Alice denied the accusation and was put on trial for witchcraft at the assizes in Hertford on 23 March 1576. Continue reading »
On Monday 28 January, the Digital Preservation Coalition (DPC) hosted a file formats day of action, creatively titled ‘Bring Out Your Dead (Files)’ at the Wellcome Collection. As The National Archives’ resident File Format Signature Developer, I was invited to deliver a presentation on DROID and PRONOM, our file format identification tool and file format registry, and a workshop on Developing File Format Signatures for PRONOM.
My own talk reviewed DROID and PRONOM developments in 2012:
- DROID 6.1 was released in August. DROID development has switched to Github, and we have a Google Groups discussion page open for support enquiries
- The PRONOM registry has grown considerably, with 100 new file formats, 177 new file format signatures, and a full time researcher appointed
- PRONOM has been able to grow this much in part due to the wealth of external contributors who continue to provide us with file format signature and research information. Over a dozen institutions and individuals contributed last year
- Finally I was delighted to announce that the download for our DROID tool now has a permanent home on The National Archives’ own website.
My workshop focused on demystifying the file format research and signature development processes I undertake and allowed willing participants the chance to try developing their own signatures. Continue reading »
I am going to start this blog post by asking a few questions. If faced with compulsory military service today, what would be the impact on our own individual lives? Would we need time to settle our domestic responsibilities before being able to serve? Would it be in the national interest for us to stay in the employment, training or social role which we currently hold? And what personnel would businesses and industries require to ensure the continued support to our local communities, especially the young and elderly?
Fortunately for us in Britain today these questions are purely hypothetical but 97 years ago (give or take a few days), on 27 January 1916, the British Government passed the first Military Service Act, meaning compulsory military service for every British male aged between 18 and 41 who was either unmarried or a widower without children. Exemption could be granted from this conscription into the military forces with a Tribunal system established to hear applications and appeals at local district or borough level, County appeal and a final Central appeal level in London.
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With an array of different Christmas puddings now available, you probably didn’t have any problem getting hold of one this year. However, 60 years ago, you might have had a problem getting the ‘correct’ Christmas pudding, files in The National Archives reveal.
Making the Empire Christmas Pudding (catalogue reference CO 956/62)
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