View Full Version : Grumpy Old Woman - Has this only happened to Me?
31-05-2006, 11:50 PM
When I initially started the hunt for my mysterious g.grandparents, my journey started in Ramsgate. On contacting their archives, I was horrified to hear that it had burnt down and any rescued records were in Oxford being restored.
I was informed that Margate, Canterbury or Whitfield might have some records that were out on loan etc. I was able to access some Kelly's directories but I really needed the electoral roles for 1920-1930's. Sorry I was told 'All destroyed', so what next.
I know, I thought the rates books (as my g.grandparents owned a business), but only the 1918-1922. Where were the rest, Whitfield sent me to Canterbury had but no, Canterbury didn't have them they were back at Whitfield but not catalogued yet!
To cut a very long story short my pure chance I contacted Maidstone about the missing Kelly's directories and blow me if the assistant didn't suggest I look at the electoral roles!! They had not been destroyed but had been in Maidstone all this time - arrrghhh.
Do the different archive offices not communicate? Is there not a database of who holds what?
I have so many wasted journeys and phone calls. Sorry just needed to rant.
01-06-2006, 12:09 AM
Here's one from Wales
To look at most things in Glamorgan RO you have to order in advance because they are stored off site. I emailed and asked if they have the admissions register for a workhouse school, they emailed back and said yes and gave me a reference number thingy to order it with. I rang up the search room one week before the day I wanted to go there, booked us (me and my two cousins) in and ordered the admissions register and the creed register and anything else relating to that workhouse school between certain dates. they told me that was fine.
We arrived, gave our names, were looked at as though we were aliens. I asked to see the admissions register and was told
"there's a one hundred year closure on it you can't see it"
"The date I want to look at is 1895," said I, trying to sound reasonable. "I ordered the book last week and no-one said anything about a closure order"
"Well I don't know whether you should be allowed, I'll have to see"
She went away, we looked at each other for a while and twiddled our pencils. She came back
"You said you ordered the book last week,"
"They don't appear to have sent it, are you sure you ordered it?"
I opened my note book and read her the name of the person who had taken my request - "gosh" I said, trying to look surprised "that's the same name as on your security tag around your neck, I thought your voice sounded familiar"
She blushed scarlet and left the room. Five minutes later another member of staff brought the book, we asked permission to photograph it and then we left.
ET in the USA
01-06-2006, 2:59 AM
I too have fond memories of the Glamorgan record Office. Last February, we booked 2 microfiche readers for the morning we planned to drive over from Somerset. That part went fine. The problem was when we needed to look for wills. One room has the microfiche wills index up to a certain date. Then the Search Room (in the same building) has books up to 1955 (I think it is) and the Cardiff Probate Office on Park Street has books from 1956 to some recent date, then back on microfiche again to almost the present. For the real present, you need to have a clerk look on the computer.
OK, so it was bad enough that we had to go to 2 addresses across town from each other to accomplish our search -- the real treat came at the GRO. Seems that the books we needed were kept in some room and that there was an all day meeting going on in that exact room. No one could disturb the meeting, but if we went to lunch and came back in a couple of hours, the meeting 'might' break for lunch and they 'might' be able to secure the books. All we needed to do was write them all down and they would give them to us 3 at a time. Needless to say, the Probate Office was almost closed by the time we got through with the high level of efficiency at the GRO & we hit rush hour traffic on the bridge and near Bristol on the way home.
01-06-2006, 10:07 AM
I have tried to explain before, but obviously failed, that there never was a "Ramsgate Archives". What burned down was Ramsgate Library which happened to include a Local Studies section. There shouldn't have been any original archive material there - it's policy to house all such material within the Archives Service and for local studies sections of libraries to just have copies. However helpful library staff may be you can't expect them to have the same knowledge as archives staff.
I've always found the Kent Archives Service to be pretty efficient. I've always received a straight and accurate answer to a straight question. If I've had a vague question (I mean if I didn't really know what question to ask ;) ), I've always put it in writing but that's what I'd do with any organisation.
For example I've just received a long, detailed and helpful reply from Canterbury Archives in response to an "I'm stuck" problem.
I've had a fair bit of excellent service from archives, not only Kent, often quite above and beyond the call of duty. You sometimes have to use a bit of guile to get to speak to the right person, but that's standard with any organisation. Admittedly there are some duds around but frankly I don't think Kent is one of them.
01-06-2006, 10:42 AM
Whether Ramsgate Archives/library or local study centre held any documents is irrelevant really, my question was why do the other Archive offices not know what documentation they hold or where it is held.
Margate were extremely helpful but it was them who informed me that the electoral roles were either destroyed or in Oxford. What am I to believe? The lady went out of her way to help me with another matther, am I to then question her explanation about what records are available. No! I take what she says on face value. Would I have got a different answer if I had put it in writing!
01-06-2006, 4:45 PM
Peter Goodey said:
"it's policy to house all such material within the Archives Service and for local studies sections of libraries to just have copies. "
The Newport Reference Library has lots of original documents and pictures and stuff. This goes back to the days before there was a county record office - when Newport was a County Borough in its own right. Then there was 1974 and Most archive material was put in the County REcord Office and now Newport is a City and County and looking for its own repository.
We kind of hope that the one repsoitory will be kept but as the building that houses it has "concrete cancer" things don't look good.
In the mean time ...
01-06-2006, 5:44 PM
"Whether Ramsgate Archives/library or local study centre held any documents is irrelevant"
The point I was making is that it is relevant whether you're talking to archives or library staff.
"I take what she says on face value."
Well, I would tend not to. But there you go...each to his or her own.
All I can say is that in my experience, Kent Archives have been at the acceptable end of the helpfulness scale.
01-06-2006, 7:21 PM
Whether Ramsgate Archives/library or local study centre held any documents is irrelevant really, my question was why do the other Archive offices not know what documentation they hold or where it is held.Isn't there web site called A2A that suppose to list all the holdings of register offices? Not sure if this includes local studies as I never used it. Derbyshire record office has quite a good on line guide as to what they hold.
17-08-2006, 9:04 PM
I've probably visited ten to twelve record offices, and found staff unfailingly helpful - enthusiastic even. Your own RO at Chichester is a good instance.
Counties, however, seem to vary tremendously in their commitment. The East Sussex RO down the road from you at Lewes is an example of this. The siting and actual premises are hopeless and, whilst the staff do their level best, it is clear that Archives are way, way down in the budgetary expenditure table.
18-08-2006, 2:39 AM
Isn't there web site called A2A that suppose to list all the holdings of register offices? Not sure if this includes local studies as I never used it. Derbyshire record office has quite a good on line guide as to what they hold.
While A2A is a very good site - it does not list everything. It only lists the items that each county/record/archive office has chosen to list with them.
19-08-2006, 10:46 PM
Why can't all archives accept the CARN? Presumably because there are still some cobwebby County Archivists around. It's a bind having to dig out gas bills etc.
And why are some of them paranoid about security but not others? If you go to Shrewsbury they are quite relaxed (unless you want to see some motheaten mediaeval manuscript) without being at all irresponsible. Some places want to know your great aunt Mary's maiden name.
When you go to Gloucester for the first time they make you sit through an absolutely useless video.
If you want to visit the Reading Room at the National Army Museum you have to register and get your card before you go. You rapidly get the impression that visitors are actually a bit of a nuisance. Compare and contrast with the excellent staff at National Archives, Kew.
20-08-2006, 4:21 PM
I have been dealing with Portsmouth Records Office and have to say that they have always bent over backwards to help me. I contact them by e-mail or post and have always received friendly and helpful replies. Even to the fact although they did a search for me at one time, they returned my cheque because could not find what I wanted to know based on the information I gave them. I would not hesitate to use them again or recommend them. Morris71
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