Friday, July 22, 2011

Contrast and Compare

They say that comparisons are odious. However a holiday in eastern England included visits to two local record offices which triggered some thoughts on the differences between them - and the Heritage Hub - and between English and Scottish records.
First up was the Bedford Record Office housed in a late 20th century building in need of a bit of TLC. No formalities required when you sign in and they’re happy for you to use your camera provided you sign a simple copyright declaration. One of the differences between Scotland and England is that Parish Registers and all the other contents of the Parish Chest are deposited in the local record office. Bedfordshire parish records were transcribed by the county archivist many years ago and they are justifiably proud of the quality of the transcript. In fact they seemed quite offended when I asked to see the film of the original register.  The Bedfordshire FHS has produced a county wide index of these transcripts - very useful for finding those intinerant relatives we all have.
We moved onto the Norfolk Archive Centre, a very modern purpose built archive a couple of years older than the Heritage Hub in Hawick. Whilst you merely had to sign in to look at micro-form records, identification with an address was required before you would be given access to original documents.  Norfolk is part of the CARN (County Archive Research Network) so that the ID they issue can be used at other record offices. They also charge for the privilege if you want to use your camera. I didn’t have a good day as I wanted to look at poor law records from the early 19th century prior to the Poor Law Act of 1834. The records of the Parish Overseer form part of the Parish Chest but nothing had survived for either of the parishes I was interested in. Digging around however I did find a whole series of militia lists in the private papers from Felbrigg Hall - I wonder if the Norfolk FHS knows about them?
Leaving aside the fact that we’re stuck with the records from the places where our ancestors lived, do I have a preference ? Not really, there are good and bad features both nationally and locally. For example, Scots parish records have all been transcribed and images are available on the internet. English parish records always include marriages as well as banns (intimations) and deaths and beginning with marriages in 1754 were kept in pre-printed registers.
The picture at the head of this blog comes from the Time & Tide Museum in Great Yarmouth. It’s located in an old herring smoke house and includes reference to the significant influence that Scots had on the herring fishery.

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