The lat­est news and data re­leases

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - CONTENTS - Jon Bauck­ham with the lat­est news from the world of fam­ily his­tory

More than 3.4 mil­lion trade union records have been up­loaded to the web for the first time.

Digitised from ma­te­rial held at the Uni­ver­sity of War­wick’s Mod­ern Records Cen­tre, the col­lec­tion, on find­my­past.co.uk, con­tains membership files kept by sev­eral unions that were ac­tive across Bri­tain from the mid-1800s, in­clud­ing the Amal­ga­mated So­ci­ety of Wood­work­ers, the Gen­eral Union of Car­pen­ters & Join­ers and the Na­tional Union of Rail­way­men.

Ac­com­pa­nied by a scan of the orig­i­nal doc­u­ment, search­ing the dataset can re­veal the date on which a mem­ber joined, their ad­dress, mar­i­tal sta­tus and whether they moved be­tween union branches. In some cases – es­pe­cially if the in­di­vid­ual was a prom­i­nent mem­ber – the records may also of­fer an obit­u­ary, bi­o­graph­i­cal sketch or pho­to­graph.

Fur­ther­more, the fact that some or­gan­i­sa­tions op­er­ated branches over­seas means that re­searchers may also be able to track down kin who dis­ap­pear from UK records. A membership list for the United So­ci­ety of Boil­er­mak­ers & Iron Ship­builders, for ex­am­ple, shows 20 mem­bers work­ing in the Span­ish city off Bil­bBil­bao dduringi theh 18901890s. WiWithh theh bulk of records dat­ing from the late-19th cen­tury, the col­lec­tion rep­re­sents a pe­riod in which trade unions first be­gan to at­tract wider membership, hav­ing pre­vi­ously been the pre­serve of highly skilled work­ers in the en­gi­neer­ing, print and con­struc­tion in­dus­tries. Ac­cord­ing to labour move­ment ex­pert Mark Crail, over­all fig­ures rose slowly from the end of the Vic­to­rian pe­riod, reach­ing a peak around 1920 with 40 per cent of work­ers be­long­ing to a union.

How­ever, Mr Crail – who runs the web­site www.unio­nances­tors.co.uk – said that although he was ex­cited about the on­line col­lec­tion, he feels it “barely scratches the sur­face”.

“De­spite the enor­mous amount of pa­per­work that has sur­vived the years, far more of it has been de­stroyed,” he told Who Do You Think You Are? Mag­a­zine. “But if you are lucky enough to find an an­ces­tor, the records should prove truly fas­ci­nat­ing.

“The types of record will dif­fer from union to union and from era to era, but may help you see not just the date and lo­ca­tion at which some­one joined, but any pay­ments they re­ceived from the union dur­ing pe­ri­ods of un­em­ploy­ment or af­ter an ac­ci­dent.

“I very much hope that this is the start of a process of mak­ing trade union records more ac­ces­si­ble. There is so much in them that can help us to de­velop a real un­der­stand­ing of our an­ces­tors’ lives.”

When ap­proached by Who Do You Think You Are? Mag­a­zine, a spokesper­son from the Mod­ern Records Cen­tre said that, while the re­lease was the re­sult of a pi­lot project, the or­gan­i­sa­tion “would be very happy to work with Find­my­past to digi­tise fur­ther ma­te­rial.”

If you are lucky enough to find an an­ces­tor, the records should prove truly fas­ci­nat­ing

The set mainly com­prises union membership reg­is­ters

Theh releasel i in­cludesld records cre­ated by the Na­tional Union of Rail­way­men, whose Ber­mond­sey branch is pic­tured here in 1900

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