January 2011

A2A – Access to Archives – The United Kingdom Archives Network

The National Archives of England have a database called A2A or Access to Archives. It is part of the UK archives network. The database is made up of catalogues which describe what is in many local archives across England and Wales. The records go from the eighth century to modern day.

The information comes from local record offices, libraries, universities, museums and national and specialist institutions across England and Wales but it is not all inclusive.

No new information being added to the database but that does not diminish its importance.

When you click on a reference found in A2A you will find a link to the repository holding the original documentation. This link will provide you with the information needed to contact them and what you need to know if you decide to go there to view the documents.

The amount of detail found in the descriptions depends on the originating facility. If you want to find more information on the catalogue entry then contact the relevant repository.

You can not view any images on A2A but you can contact the repository to see if a copy can be made of the document and what the reproduction fee would be.

I have used this database many times. Once I found a record and when I contacted the repository they told me that all the family detail was in the description on A2A and that the record would not be able to be copied because of preservation reasons. Still I was able to get the family details from the document.

Once I found a real gem, a letter from an ancestor requesting a person of nobility’s support in obtaining a post at Dublin Castle. This and other information in the letter was fantastic not to mention the letter was written by my ancestor in 1767. As a result I have his signature and a sample of his handwriting which is something rarely found for that time period.

When searching A2A you may find something in Derbyshire that seems to relate to your family but they lived in London. Remember that family papers and other items were not always placed in a repository near where they lived. They may have had dealings with someone whose home was in another county so therefore their papers were placed in that family’s home county archives or local record office.

Keep an open mind and follow up every lead.

©2011 – Blair Archival Research

Please Support Family History Societies

Supporting the family history societies in the areas where my family originated has been important to me. As a result I am a member of the Manchester & Lancashire Family History Society, Glasgow and West of Scotland Family History Society and the Genealogical Society of Ireland. I also support the Ontario Genealogical Society including the Halton-Peel Branch and the Ireland Special Interest Group. There are no family connections to these areas I just feel it is important to support their activities for future generations.

Being a member of the societies in Ireland, England and Scotland has helped with my research. There is a journal that comes out every quarter or once a year filled with articles about current record releases, research stories, publication lists and sometimes there are indexes to some records that are small and relate to the area. You can find a synopsis of lectures given at the society. I have written articles for the GWSFHS and GSI journals and have found distant family members who are also members. By being in contact with these groups I keep up to date of what is available for those areas. If I have a question then the chances are that sending them an email may result in an answer.

Occasionally the records that would help me with my research are not available in any form on this side of the Atlantic. You can sometimes find local members of the society who are happy to help you with your research for a small fee and/or a reimbursement of expenses. Some societies offer a research service. If they can not help you they can recommend someone who can.

Lately I have been catching up with my reading and while reading The Manchester Genealogist the journal for the Manchester & Lancashire Family History Society I came across an article about the future of Clayton House where the society has been housed for about twenty years. I had the privilege to visit Clayton House in 2003 and while there I did some research, picked up a few interesting publications and got some advice.

The Society has been considering a move because the rent has become too much for the society and their membership has dropped by over one thousand in recent years. This is very sad news indeed.

Family history societies are the backbone of the genealogical community. The people who began and continue these groups have a true passion for family history research. They have spent countless hours transcribing, indexing, creating and typing many of the databases we take for granted today. The latter members have worked diligently in getting some these databases published and put online.

It can not be said enough that you will NOT find everything for your family history online. At some point you will have to go to the area where your family originated and the family history society for the area would be a true asset to your research. If you do not support them now they will not be there when you need them.

Another consideration is that not everyone is online and they could be members of these societies who read the journals. Are you missing out on finding someone who has a wealth of family history information relating to your family simply because you are only looking online for information?

The closure of family history societies due to lack of membership would be an enormous loss to the genealogical community. Please join your local family history society today and at least one in the homeland of your ancestors.

©2011 – Blair Archival Research

Ireland’s 1740 Cold Snap

This holiday season the news was full of pictures and stories of stranded airline passengers because of the snow in Dublin and other parts of Europe.

In the Irish Independent newspaper there was an article on 30 December 2010 about the cold snap of 1740. There is a new book written by Trinity College Dublin history Professor David Dickson called “Arctic Ireland.” I have not read the book but am looking forward to getting a copy.

Hundreds of thousands of Irish died during “The Great Frost.” It brought the country and Europe to a standstill. They believe “The Great Frost” may have been the result of volcanic activity in Russia. The devastation began on 29 December 1739 and went into 1741.

To find out more you can read the article here.

©2011 – Blair Archival Research