With lo­cal ar­chives, it may be a case of ‘use it or lose it’

Your Family History - - Contents - Nell Darby Ed­i­tor yfh@his­to­ry­

We wel­come your re­search sto­ries and fam­ily pho­to­graphs: emai­lyfh@his­to­ry­ write to the ad­dress on page3!

The sum­mer seemed to go so quickly this year – but it was full of in­ter­est and con­tro­versy for fam­ily his­to­ri­ans and other his­tory re­searchers, with the news – rapidly back­tracked on – from Northamp­ton­shire Ar­chives that they would be only of­fer­ing what they termed ‘free ac­cess’ to its re­sources up to 1pm, sev­eral times a week, with re­searchers be­ing charged over £30 to visit in the af­ter­noons (see pages 7 and 10). Un­der­stand­ably, this caused great con­ster­na­tion amongst its users, and al­though the un­pop­u­lar­ity of the de­ci­sion meant that the plan was quickly re­vised, it has left many of us who reg­u­larly use ar­chives con­cerned that where Northamp­ton­shire has ven­tured, other ar­chives might fol­low. Do coun­cils truly see the value of ar­chives, if they think re­strict­ing ac­cess is the way for­ward, or do they gen­uinely have no choice, when faced with lim­ited bud­gets and strained re­sources?

Per­haps the mes­sage should be that we should make the most of our ar­chives, and show how much they are needed. This can be eas­ier said than done when some are not easy to get to; for ex­am­ple, last month, I vis­ited Here­ford­shire Ar­chives, walk­ing there from the rail­way sta­tion and back – a nine-mile jour­ney! There are cer­tainly ob­sta­cles to vis­it­ing – from lo­ca­tion to open­ing hours – but how­ever use­ful and easy it may be to look at some records on­line, there will al­ways be doc­u­ments that are only avail­able on site. There­fore, with lo­cal ar­chives, it may be a case of ‘use it or lose it’.

But enough of the bad news. This month we have our usual var­ied fea­tures, with a fo­cus on the­atri­cal an­ces­tors, as I’m sure many of you are like me and have ac­tors and other the­atri­cal pro­fes­sion­als in your fam­ily tree! We also look at politi­cians, fire­fight­ers and pri­vate teach­ers among oth­ers – and, as al­ways, we’d wel­come your sug­ges­tions for fea­tures you’d like to see in fu­ture is­sues.

Per­haps the mes­sage should be that we should show how much our ar­chives are needed

Cover im­age: Shutterstock/Everett Col­lec­tion

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