Friday 16 September 2011

TNA developments - War Diaries, Home Guard and more

The following is an abridgement of an email from Roger Lewry, Archives Liaison Officer for the Federation of Family History Societies ( , summarising the main items discussed at the recent TNA User Advisor Group meeting on September 6th (I've added a couple of extra links to help clarify some points):

New Discovery service

This is due to replace the existing catalogue and DocumentsOnline service (which hosts digitised TNA records) from March 2012. The development of this new service is iterative and feedback from users is greatly appreciated.

See for the new service.

Pilot Home Guard digitisation project

This concerns the pilot stage of a project to digitise Home Guard records, which were recently transferred to TNA. The pilot will focus on records for County Durham - see for details (I would humbly suggest Glasgow as phase 2 if you need one!)

Based on its own work and on the user group's recommendations, TNA has decided on the following:

· The fields in the Basic search option will be name; DOB; address; place of birth; and Home Guard place
· The fields in the Advanced search option will be National Registration number; former service (Y/N); next of kin; relation to next of kin; date of record

A commercial partner has yet to be chosen. The basic search will likely be free, with payment required for the advanced options and for the images. For the pilot exercise, payment will be required only for the images. All searches and images will be free at Kew.

Digitisation of indexes to Foreign Office correspondence

The following have been scanned:

· The Foreign Office card index to correspondence 1906-20 (FO 1111, over 500 drawers of cards)
· The printed books of Foreign Office indexes to correspondence 1920-1953, 1959 (FO 409, over 140 volumes)
· The Dominions Office card index to correspondence 1925-1947 (un-accessioned, c. 80 drawers of cards)

It is planned that by March/April 2012 images for these will be made available free on the TNA website, including a working ‘reference convertor’ programme to convert old references in the indexes to TNA references.

Business planning cycle

The group was invited to feed in suggestions for inclusion in TNA’s business plan for 2012-13. The following ideas were put forward at the meeting:

· Examine linked records to Home Guard series for digitisation
· Prioritise non-heavy use records for digitisation to open up the collections, based on onsite use
· Ring fence funds for cataloguing Map Room content
· Promote the link between improved indexing online and greater use onsite
· TNA looking to find ways to plug the current funding gap, so suggestions welcome with the caveat that they cannot contravene terms of operation and reputation
· Voluntary sector to be encouraged to help with cataloguing and transcribing when appropriate
· TNA and the cultural Olympiad – Mel Hyde, Head of Press, to lead on this project, and she would welcome suggestions for other anniversaries
· Paper lists to be retained in the reading rooms, though they will not be updated

NB: Roger is seeking suggestions on these from family historians within the next two weeks for consideration prior to an October meeting to take further.


A revised list of public service, cataloguing and digitisation project updates will be placed online end of September. 52 projects at present.

Major project announcement - War Diaries to be digitised

WO95 will be digitised to commemorate the centenary of the First World War, with 3-5 extra search fields to be included in the catalogue
· Full details to be announced around Remembrance Day
· 2 year project, biggest every funded by TNA; 4m images

NB: WO95 is the War Office: First World War and Army of Occupation War Diaries series - see

With thanks to Roger. If you wish to contact Roger with suggestions for the business plan, or for topic suggestions for future meetings, please do so via


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