For Genealogy

Recently, I was surprised to discover that I have Scottish roots. I'm still coming to terms with it... However it does mean that soon I may be using the country's recently announced 'one-stop-shop for genealogy'.

Some readers have already noted the difference between what is happening in Scotland as far as genealogical records are concerned, and what is in place for England and Wales. Particularly online. While the ScotlandsPeople website has managed to partner with both the National Archives of Scotland (for its census and parish register data) and the General Register Office of Scotland (for its birth, marriage and death records), in England the General Register Office and National Archives have quite distinct and separate presences.

While in Scotland one 'online partner' has been chosen to make this material available, and the will is there to bring the record keepers together at one location, Edinburgh's proposed genealogy campus, in England and Wales we're seeing the old records being licensed out hither and thither. After the server crash and eight-month delay in getting the 1901 Census website online and working in 2002, The National Archives (it was the Public Record Office at the time) seems reluctant to take on projects of a similar scale, lest it end up with egg on its face once again. Ancestry.co.uk, and other companies, have got licensing partnerships and are going ahead making censuses and other national documents available via tgheir commercial websites.

The General Register Office for England and Wales is allowing a growing number of private companies to use its indexes. 1837online.com is the best known one, however BMDIndex.co.uk is taking strides (see our website guide on page 76), Ancestry.co.uk offers BMD records and others are on the way.

Compared to Scotland, this approach is very fragmented indeed. The mitigating factor is scale. Records-wise, England and Wales present a far bigger challenge to the archivists, index makers and those charged with scanning the old documents. Maybe there isn't the will or ability to centralise things in the way Scotland is attempting. At the moment, it looks like Ancestry.co.uk is the biggest centralised online resource for English and Welsh records. It's run, and very effectively I think, by the big American company MyFamily.com. This is perhaps, a little ironic. What do you think?

Garrick Webster Editor

[email protected]

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