Monday, 14 September 2015

UK National Archives webinars - a new genealogy resource

The UK’s National Archives (TNA) at Kew has started a new initiative for genealogists – interactive webinars. I took part in one last week and thought I’d pass on my experiences to the Worldwide Genealogy community.

The National Archives, Kew, © Copyright Chris Reynolds and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
The National Archives © Chris Reynolds  Creative Commons
If you’ve got ancestors from the UK or its former colonies you may have already used TNA’s catalogue, Discovery, its online collections or its podcasts. You may even have visited the archives at Kew. Now these webinars may be another way to learn more about genealogy and how to research different aspects of your own family history.

I found out about the webinar I took part in because I’m signed up to TNA’s enewsletter, but you can also see upcoming events on their home page.
You have to book your place on a webinar via Eventbrite, and you’ll get a confirmation email and, nearer the date, a link and instructions. They suggest using a PC or laptop rather than your phone as the sound quality will be better. If you’ve got headphones, better still.

It’s a good idea to go to the webinar a little early to get used to the layout and to iron out any possible glitches as well as to sign in. You’ll see an e-curtain where slides will display once the webinar gets under way, and on the right hand side a small dialogue box where you interact with the TNA mods and other participants. This is also where you post questions for the speaker to answer at the end – you can ask questions at any time and some people’s queries were answered by other participants during the webinar I attended. Above this is a video feed of the speaker.

TNA says:

This webinar will identify relevant record series at The National Archives and help you trace individuals from this period.
We will also show you some key primary sources available to help you with research around this topic.
Webinars are interactive, online seminars designed to support and develop research skills. You access this event from the comfort of your own home, by logging in on your pc, tablet, smartphone or other device. Being online, you will be able to take advantage of the expertise of The National Archives' staff from your own computer or tablet, without having to travel to Kew. During the session (which will last no more than an hour), you can interact with staff members and fellow researchers taking part in the webinar, as well as listening to, and viewing, the presentation on screen.

How was my first TNA webinar? Instructive and enjoyable, with only a few minus points. There were some glitches with the sound. At first there was none, then it was too low, and later on I and another participant heard a very distracting echo which made it almost impossible to follow what the speaker was saying. This wasn’t too bad while there were slides on the screen, but made the Q&A at the end impossible to follow.

In addition, the dialogue box was supposed to stay on screen after the session ended so that attenders could go on talking for a while, but it disappeared.

I’m sure these were just teething troubles. I found the TNA staff very helpful and keen to sort out the problems. They generously offered to send us the slides and a link to the audio so we could catch up with the bits we missed.

Apart from these small problems, it was a very positive experience. The slides were clear and left on the screen for long enough to take notes from (though I did take a few photos as well), and the speaker, Dr Katy Mair, used several documents from TNA’s collection to illustrate points, which was an added bonus.

She was excellent at explaining the sources available from the National Archives and how to search them. And it’s always a joy to hear an expert speak.

I’d definitely recommend taking part in a TNA webinar if you can. Some older ones are also available on their website.

Finally, a few notes about the session I attended. With this being the 300th anniversary of the Jacobite Rising of 1715, TNA is marking the event with some commemorative events, including a small display in their Keeper’s Gallery. This talk was about tracing Jacobites (supporters of the exiled King James) in the National Archives.

There are no sources online (apart from State Papers Online, a subscription site only available to institutions), so it’s necessary to go to TNA or get someone to do the research. Discovery, their online catalogue, has descriptions of the relevant series. They are:
  • State Papers (SP) – the key series
  • Various legal series – Treasury Solicitor (TS), Kings Bench (KB)
  • Forfeited Estates Commission (FEC), Patent Rolls (C66)
The State papers fall into two categories, State Papers Scotland (SP 54), letters to the Secretary of State from Scotland, and State Papers Domestic George I and II (SP 35 and 36), letters to the Secretary of State from England.

Flora MacDonald, captured in 1746 (Wikimedia)
In addition, SP 41 (State Papers Military) covers the risings of 1715 and 1745, with letters and papers directed to the Secretaries of State in their military capacity; SP 42 (State Papers Naval) holds correspondence from the Board of Admiralty; and SP 44, which covers letters sent dealing with warrants, pardons, petitions, licences and reports.

Katy also talked about women prisoners taken after the Jacobite Risings and about what happened to the people captured and convicted – if not execution, then banishment, pardon on enlistment or transportation.

She showed us lists in CO 1 (State Papers Colonial) of Jacobites transported to British colonies in America and the West Indies, where they were sold as ‘indentured servants’ to plantation owners.

Britain used its American colonies for transportation until the independence of the United States, after which it turned to New South Wales... but that’s another story.

1 comment:

  1. I joined a webinar some time back when they were trying this out but missed the one I signed up for recently I am pleased they are making them available to view later.


Hello, thanks for leaving a comment on the World Wide Genealogy Blog. All comments are moderated because of pesky spammers!

Best wishes
World Wide Genealogy Team