Thursday, 27 March 2014

Family History at the Mitchell - review

I popped into Glasgow earlier to have a look at the new genealogy set up at the Mitchell Library, which reopened its family history resources today after a move to the fifth floor (from the second and third floors). In terms of the facilities previously available, the new set up is almost identical for the various resource areas. Glasgow City Archives, the NHS Archives, the Registrars Genealogy Service and the Special Collections areas remain as separate units, but the major advantage now is that they are all situated on the one floor, branded together as Family History at the Mitchell (

Whilst there I carried out some client research in the city archive. Access is via the door under the sign marked Bailie's Reading Room, and once in and established at a desk I was pleasantly surprised to be able to access a wifi signal - something I have long been begging for at the Mitchell...! In fact, it turned out that I was picking up the wifi signal from the fourth floor. In due course, the fifth floor will be getting its own wifi capability, but the signal strength there was not at all bad - I only had problems when at the computer terminals hosting the poor law indexes by the windows, but returning to the desk I was based at just a few feet away was enough to get connected back up again. In terms of production delivery, I only had to wait about ten to fifteen minutes for the poor law volumes I wished to consult, so being on the top floor causes no further disadvantage on that front. I say the top floor, but I actually ascended in the lift up to the sixth floor today, a minor miracle as I never knew there was a sixth floor, it's not marked on the lift buttons. Someone else in the lift had a key. It was like visiting Narnia, but I never stepped out of the wardrobe...! :)

I was informed that the archives, which were previously based on the fifth floor many years ago, still occupies roughly the same amount of floor space, but I have to say it felt considerably more spacious, and not like a facility trapped in a bubble within the library, as it previously felt on the second floor. There are extra seats within the archive now, and something that did amuse me was the fact that they are now selling merchandise! For just £6 you can purchase a USB 2GB thumb drive, there are pencils and notepads, but also a few items that will probably have some former archivists turning in their graves and current ones in their sleep, such as pens and headphones! What is the world coming to...?!

I popped over to the registrars area for a few moments also to make a booking for a computer terminal in a few days time for some client work (unlimited access to the ScotlandsPeople records for £15 for a day). I was informed that at present they have the same number of terminals available as previously existed on the third floor, but that three new terminals will be added next week. The wifi signal was good here also, which will be a relief to anyone who previously cried every time they tried to get online on the third floor.

The Special Collections area is accessed at the other end of the floor through a different door, and in here are many of the other assets that previously existed on the second and third floors. Electoral rolls, calendars of confirmations and inventories, directories, monumental inscriptions, all now accessible in a considerably larger floor space. I spoke to one of the librarians, and one of the big changes there is that as well as the microfilms for Glasgow newspapers that used to be held on the second floor, they have also incorporated the UK national titles (The Times, The Daily Telegraph etc) on microfilm, which used to be held separately on the fourth floor. Wise move. I was surprised to see Glasgow burgh electoral rolls going back to the 1860s - I asked if these had been available before on the third floor? Apparently they had been removed until a couple of years back, but had been on display prior to the move upstairs. I definitely missed those, I had always thought that that the library only had rolls from the early 20th century, so something to have another look at in due course!

Overall, I was very impressed with the new set-up. The second and third floors at present are now closed off, but I got a wee sneak peak - they are completely gutted out, and obviously some other function awaits them soon. Bringing all the family history resources onto one single floor has been a great move by all involved, and wifi access, good now, and soon to get better, is long overdue and now very welcome. I'll be properly road testing the facilities again next week, but so far, so very good. Nice one Glasgow!


Time to find your inner Irish...! All the best online Irish genealogy resources can be found through my book Tracing Your Irish Family History on the Internet - in print and ebook formats. "Very useful, makes me wish I was Irish!" - Saint Patrick, patron saint.

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