This year I am going to join a number of other family historians (such as Andrew Martin) in publicly setting out some ‘New Year’s resolutions’ – genealogy goals for 2015. On a day-to-day basis I will be carrying on where I left off at the end of 2014, by continuing to check new record sets and other new sources of information as they are released, so that I can extract info on members of the Atcherley family and add it to my research. But I want also to set some targets, and commit to doing something extra. What could possibly go wrong?
1. Write at least 30 new articles for this website
The Atcherley family is full of fascinating stories which I want to share through this website, knowing that in the course of writing them I usually end up reviewing all that I know about the Atcherleys in question, checking my sources, and finding new facts. In 2014 I managed to add 28 new articles and a major re-write of an existing story, so my goal for 2015 is to post a total of at least 30 new or extensively re-written articles. And I will watch with interest the progress of the Genealogy Do-Over and 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenges. Both of those challenges are beyond me at present.
Update: So far this year (as of 5 Jan 2015) I have added two new articles.
2. Complete the update of this website’s family tree pages
Last year I started overhauling the Atcherley family tree pages, which had remained largely unchanged since they were first added to the website several years ago. However I only managed to update four of the twelve tree pages, so this year my aim is to complete the job. And then try to keep them in synch with my research! If I can find the time I will add links from the people in the tree pages, to the articles about them elsewhere on the site (with return links from the articles), and maybe also add family tree diagrams, but these are optional extras.
Update: Tree page for John Atcherley of Waters Upton and his descendants reviewed 2 Jan 2015. Tree page for Henry Atcherley of Kinnersley reviewed 10 Jan 2015. Tree page for Thomas Atcherley of Marton updated 18 Jan 2015. Tree page for Richard Atcherley of Marton updated 24 Jan 2015.
My Atcherley family trees at Ancestry, and my main offline tree (which I maintain using RootsMagic) include many descendants of female lines plus allied families – I will look into the possibility of getting some of that additional genealogical information added to this site through static or dynamic family tree pages. No promises on that though!
3. Make at least two visits to The National Archives to view documents held there relating to the Atcherley family
At the end of 2014 I made my first ever visit to The National Archives at Kew – the documents I looked at and photographed (dating back to 1623 and 1748) will hopefully provide material for two of the 30 new articles I aim to add to the website this year!
Although there is a huge and ever-increasing number of historical records available online, there are many more documents tucked away in archives across the UK (and beyond). The majority of these will probably never be digitised, at least not in the near future, so the secrets they hold can only be revealed by visiting the archives and looking at them (or arranging for someone else to do so and send digital photos). I want to do exactly that, in respect of some of the tantalising documents concerning Atcherleys, by making at least two further visits to TNA in 2015 (and if I can manage it, other archives too).
4. Approach the College of Arms regarding Atcherley information held
Several members of the Atcherley family had coats of arms which were registered with the College of Arms in London. In all probability they provided genealogical information as part of the process, some of which may include details not available from other sources. I am also aware of the intriguing possibility that one branch of the Atcherley family disputed the right of another branch to display their coat of arms! I have always meant to get around to contacting the College of Arms to find out what information they may be able to provide and at what cost. 2015 will, I hope, be the year I get ‘a round tuit’!
5. Re-join the Shropshire Family History Society
Shropshire is ‘Atcherley Central’ and because of that, of all the local family history societies across the UK, the Salopian society is the logical choice for me. I did join up during a visit to Shrewsbury in 2011, when I attended one of the SFHS meetings (at which the Society of Genealogists’s Else Churchill was the speaker). Somehow though I managed to let my subscription lapse. 2015 is the year in which to put that right.
6. Join the Society of Genealogists
I can’t quite believe that after more than seven years of exploring my own and others’ family trees, I haven’t joined the Society of Genealogists. The fact that most of the society’s hoard of genealogical gems is only available in its London HQ (meaning that the savings made in accessing them as a member are vastly exceeded by the cost of train fares) probably has much to do with this. But more of what the SoG holds is being made available online, and on top of that the society works for all genealogists at a national level. Better late than never, as they say, though I may wait just a little longer to see if the £10 joining fee is waived at WDYTYA Live! In Birmingham. Oops, I’m getting ahead of myself there …
7. Attend WDYTYA Live! In Birmingham
The move of the UK’s greatest genealogical gathering, WDYTYA Live, from London to Birmingham puts it much closer to me and far easier for me to get to. Having only been to one of the London events, I really should attend this year, and maybe even for more than one of the three days. It’s a chance to see at first hand what the people who provide our family history fix have to offer, and an opportunity to listen to and pick up tips from some expert speakers. It is also looks like a great event at which to meet in person some of the fab folk I’ve so far only ‘met’ online.
There are other events I would like to get to in 2015 too, personal circumstances permitting. I’m making no commitments at this stage though.
8. Contribute to a transcription project
There is a wealth of genealogical data online provided gratis, free of charge and for nothing, thanks to the efforts of a world-wide army of volunteer transcribers. I have made a few small contributions in the past, for example through Find A Grave and the 1940 US census transcription project, but overall I have very much been a taker rather than a giver of free family history stuff. So, without choosing a project right now or making rash promises of how much time I can contribute, I will endeavour to give something back to the family tree tracing community this year.
9. Support campaigns against further cuts to archive, library, museum and heritage services
In many ways, we are currently living in what appears to be a Golden Age of genealogy. So many records and other sources of information are so much more accessible now, and more are joining them all the time. Yet, while all this is going on, the accessibility of other records and sources of information is being reduced. The UK Government’s austerity measures have resulted in huge funding cuts for archives, libraries, museums and other heritage services – the result being reductions in opening hours, loss of staff and their expertise, and in some cases the closure of some of those services. We are slowly losing valuable opportunities to connect with our rich and precious heritage, with our personal and connected histories.
So in 2015 I will watch out for campaigns against these cuts, and do what I can to support them, even if only by signing a petition.
Update: On 7 Jan 2015 I signed an online petition at Change.org calling on George Osborne to reverse current and future cuts to the Imperial War Museum’s annual operating grant (and I made a donation to help promote the petition further). I also signed another petition at Change.org calling for the reversal of cuts to the Library of Birmingham (pictured above). The library includes Birmingham’s archive services (The Iron Room, a brilliant genealogy and family history resource) which would suffer along with the library. I have promoted both petitions on Twitter and Facebook.
10. Campaign for the digitisation of historic English and Welsh birth, marriage and death registers
If I want an historic birth, marriage or death record from the statutory registers of Scotland, I can log on to the Scotland’s People website and download a digital copy for a very reasonable fee. Historic BMD records from the registers of Northern Ireland are also now available online. Last year, I was able to get a copy of a death certificate for Jack Rowland Atcherley, from Queensland, Australia, for about the same cost as an English or Welsh BMD certificate, but as an instant digital download. But although I can order an English or Welsh BMD certificate online via the GRO website, I then have to wait about a week for a certified, paper copy to arrive by post, at a cost far in excess of that charged by Scotland’s People for a digital version of a record that often provides more information! Sadly the GRO, part of HM Passport Office, seems to be firmly rooted in the last century.
On 18 November 2014, Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Scott of Needham Market put forward an amendment to the Deregulation Bill, with a view to making BMD certificates more accessible. The amendment in the form proposed was rejected, but Government spokesman Lord Wallace of Saltaire said that officials in the Home Office would be “happy to meet with her and discuss the issue further”. A representative from the Liberal Democrat Whips’ Office told Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine that they “expected Government and cross-party support” for the amendment when it is debated in early 2015.
There is an e-petition on the HM Government website, which is well worth signing (it closes on 25 March 2015). However, although this petition mentions the benefits of digitising historic BMD registers, the only specific demand made by it is for the historic registers to be made available for inspection at county record offices or at The National Archives.
To help ensure that progress is made, I believe our elected representatives in England and Wales must be made aware of the public appetite for modernising access to our historic BMD records (and for the provision of similar services to those offered in Scotland and Northern Ireland). The most effective way of doing this would be for genealogists and family historians to write to their own MPs expressing their views – a quick and easy way to do this is though the WriteToThem website. I will certainly be contacting my MP!
Image credits. The National Archives, Kew: photo by the author. Round Tuit: public domain image from Wikimedia Commons. Library of Birmingham: photo by the author. Extract from GRO marriage certificate for Albert Edward Chalenor and Fanny Atcherley: Image posted in compliance with General Register Office copyright guidance.