Monday, 20 April 2015

Server problems continue with National Records of Scotland services

Earlier today I tweeted the National Records of Scotland ( asking for a meaningful update as to why the online catalogue services for the archive, and other services reliant on the NRS (e.g. the SCAN catalogue for some fifty archives across the country), are still not available, now more than three weeks since they first went offline. To say it is now becoming farcical would be an understatement.

The NRS has duly complied with an update at The records are offline because of a service failure, but they still cannot provide any details as to when services will be restored. The catalogue is accessible at the archive, but not online, which I guess is fine for folk living in Edinburgh, but not for those living further afield within the nation. I should add that this is disrupting my own ability to carry out client research, and I have heard from other genealogists and academics that they are similarly being frustrated in their endeavours to make a living.

One other point is that I believe that the problems may also be affecting the ScotlandsPlaces ( platform with regards to the provision of some images. I noticed this a few days ago with some of the free to access collections such as the Farm Horse Tax records, whilst a friend of mine at WDYTYA Live reported similar problems that he has also encountered over the last few days. The transcripts for those images that have been completed are still available however.

It's simply beyond belief.


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  1. Hi, Chris, of course it's Murphy's Law for me that the first time I need something from Scotland's records, the servers are down! I need to get papers pertaining to my parent's divorce in '73 in order to get my passport approved here in the US. Otherwise my daughter and I may not be able to go on a planned trip (and we'll lose our tickets!) I know 1973 is not that long ago, but I sincerely hope these server problems don't delay me getting the judgement or hiring an agent. Got any suggestions?

  2. Best bet is to contact the NRS directly - the catalogue is accessible by staff on site, so you can ask for material to be ordered in prior to your visit. Good luck with your visit!

  3. I am staggered by how incompetently this is being handled by the NRS. The server problems seem to have been going on for nearly 4 weeks now, and aren't resolved. Why?!?!?! Can't they buy a new server, and reinstall the data from backups? Don't they have backups?

    I'm afraid saying that the catalogues are available online in Edinburgh is just not good enough. Researchers outside Edinburgh are trying to access these online resources too. With records held off site it's vital to order things in advance of any visit to the NRS, and how people visiting from a distance are meant to do this effectively beggars belief. No, going through the staff in the search room isn't always a good option, depending on what is being sought.

    I'm afraid that for me this is another example of the NRS not adequately supporting people outside Edinburgh. This server failure impacts particularly heavily on researchers at a distance, but there seems to be no priority - despite what the exasperating 'updates' say - by staff on the ground to fix things.

    And yes, it is affecting ScotlandsPlaces. Thank goodness I didn't renew my subscription a month or so ago. As an academic historian I'm interested in working with the original records, to do my own transcripts and analysis. And it's those original tax images that are offline now. Transcripts are not always a substitute. ScotlandsPlaces are now having to extend subscriptions to account for this problem.

  4. Couldn't agree more Viv. Edinburgh still doesn't get it in the way Kew and Belfast do - it's becoming embarrassing to consider the NRS as our 'national' archive. Unfortunately, many local archives collections are also inaccessible, thanks to SCAN also being down. A right dog's dinner of a mess.

    1. I'd forgotten about SCAN being down too. Yes that's a big problem, for archives across the whole of the country.

      I'm just relieved that the academic journal paper that I had to submit this month (fixed deadline) didn't in the end need me to recheck any references in the NRS catalogue.

      But I will soon want to access those digitised tax record images at ScotlandsPlaces for a new journal paper I'm developing ...

  5. Latest update 22 APR. I tweeted Tim Ellis, the Registrar General and Keeper of the Archives, about when this was going to be restored - this was the response: "Would love to give definitive answer. Are doing all possible to restore access. Do recognise difficulties and apologise to all."