Every month I receive a newsletter from the National Archives in my inbox and it is always something I look forward to reading. I love spending hours researching my family history and the National Archives are continually coming up with new ways of providing online insights into their collection. This month the first item in the newsletter was Ancestors on Board.com a database of outward passenger lists for long-distance voyages leaving the British Isles between 1890 and 1960. At the moment it only has 1890-1899 but it looks like an interesting project.
I’m also interested in a new book Workhouse: the people – the place – the life behind the doors . One of my ancestors was born in the Hertfordshire workhouse that inspired Charles Dickens to write Oliver Twist and I look forward to reading this.
There is a lot of concern at the moment about the proposed move of the Family Records Centre to the National Archives in Kew. I have enjoyed visiting the FRC in the past but have never been to Kew and I think there is a tendency for many people to feel that the National Archives is a difficult place to access and use, a little beyond the casual family historian. If moving the FRC to Kew improves the connection between the two and encourages people to investigate the material at the National Archives I can see this being a positive step but there needs to be a serious move towards making Kew accessible to people who have never before been to an archive. It is very easy to become overwhelmed by the amount and variety of material available in an archive and a national resource needs to be just as welcoming to the beginner as to the professional researcher.