Cataloguing projects 2019-20

In general, we release new descriptions gradually so that information becomes searchable as soon as possible. To restrict catalogue searches to a particular project, type its series reference (for example, HO 250) into the search box on the Discovery home page or click on the links below. Once you have found something interesting, you can visit The National Archives in person, or order a copy of the record.

Cataloguing projects finished in the financial year ending March 2020

ADM 158: Royal Marine Description Books, 1750-1940

This project has conserved, digitised and catalogued (with the help of many volunteers) 64 volumes (out of 299) in the series. Our volunteers have transformed the existing descriptions (just the initial surname letter for all the Royal Marines in one large ledger) into fully searchable data.

This cataloguing project has revealed new information including forenames, surnames, ages, places of birth and attestation dates.

The records open up new research opportunities, from family to economic history. This is a list of the specific volumes catalogued and digitised:

ADM 158/35-36, ADM 158/39, ADM 158/43-47, ADM 158/49-50, ADM 158/54-56, ADM 158/58-63, ADM 158/69-71 ADM 158/80, ADM 158/84-88, ADM 158/93-96, ADM 158/98, ADM 158/106-109, ADM 158/116-120, ADM 158/122-126, ADM 158/128, ADM 158/130-135, ADM 158/191, ADM 158/207, ADM 158/210-211, ADM 158/216.

Digital images for the following volumes will be made available in the future, as resource becomes available: 35, 39, 47, 56, 96, 107-108, 118, 120, 133.

STAC 8: Star Chamber Proceedings James I

Descriptions for 8,622 pieces and bundles have been added from two finding aids, providing names, subject information, place and type of offence. The project also added religious differences and theatre information, in addition to enabling researchers to search the material for terms such as: sedition, duelling, abduction, forgery, hunting, perjury, riot, and vexatious litigation.

Permission was granted to use published analytical data from the work of Thomas G Barnes – ‘List and Index to the Proceedings in Star Chamber for the Reign of James I’ (American Bar Foundation, Chicago, 1975). This marked one of the first uses of computing in archival description.

This was matched against a multi-volume typescript catalogue at The National Archives.

All this work was easily described, but the extraction of data was lengthy and took considerable checking. Final checks were done by Dr Rhiannon Markless, and Megan Johnston of Durham University, to whom we are very grateful.

IR 35: Claims of the War Damage Commission for the Second World War

A total of 395 pieces have now been updated. Enhanced descriptions provide the name of claimant or claimants, the address or addresses claimed for, and the builder or builders who completed the work. Of these descriptions 24 relate to open pieces and these 24 are now live on Discovery. The live 24 descriptions can be searched by claimant/address/builder although the other 371 descriptions will be on Discovery when they become open.

For cases investigated in the 1940s, a Mr Wavish (who appears to be the head of the War Damage Commission at that time) endeavours midway through each document to note down on a sheet all the affected parties and their relation to the claim – this key information was the source of the new data. Cataloguing data was extracted also from the records for other periods.

Some unusual files include cases where investigators of the War Commission themselves were being investigated for corrupt behaviour. In some cases there are follow-up investigations to the cases detailed in earlier files. Due to sensitivity around the claims and the fact that in select cases investigations of the claims could stretch into the 1960s, many records in this series can be subject to extended closures.

Completion of this project has provided an invaluable resource to help The National Archives with future Freedom of Information requests asking for information from the closed records.

ADM 106, 354, 359: Navy Board Project

Work on the Navy Board Project began with a small volunteering team focusing on the miscellaneous correspondence of the Navy Board, covering the years 1673-1789 (ADM 106/281-1299). Previously these records were difficult to search due to their complex arrangement and production.

Led by staff at The National Archives, the Navy Board project team grew, carrying out similar work for some Navy Board material at the National Maritime Museum in the series records of ADM 354 and ADM 359. This included preparing, sorting, foliating, summarising and checking 1,018 boxes of Navy Board miscellaneous correspondence.

The project has produced over 500,000 letter summaries which are now fully searchable by name, key words and date on The National Archives online catalogue, Discovery.

In many ways this project has been pioneering, thanks to the initial vision and methodology of National Archives staff, and the support of the National Maritime Museum and the Naval Dockyards Society. The work of a dedicated team of volunteers contributing to this cataloguing project has allowed the once dispersed collections of the Navy Board across The National Archives and the National Maritime Museum to be unified virtually for a global audience to search.

Hearth Tax Exemption Certificates Project

The Hearth Tax Exemption Certificates project aimed to enhance the visibility and use of Hearth Tax Exemption certificates within the E 179 series of Exchequer records. These records are considered an indispensable resource for local, economic and family historians.

Working methodically, the project sorted loose county certificates into administrative history and then arranged these alphabetically. The certificates were then sorted within each hundred into parishes, again arranged alphabetically and then finally chronologically within each parish. The following information was then catalogued for each certificate: name of hundred, name of parish, number of personal names, number of hearths and date. This process was carried out for 20 counties within England and Wales.

The project successfully sorted and listed information for 9,322 records. These can now be fully searched using our online catalogue, Discovery.

Further information about this project and the Hearth Tax Exemption certificates and returns can be found here.

HO 42 (Home Office: Domestic Correspondence, George III) Phase 2

HO 42 features general correspondence and constitutes a substantial proportion of the Home Office’s incoming correspondence for the years 1782-1820. Numerous subjects are covered, including the administration of convict establishments, sedition and rebellion in Britain; intelligence reports from agents both in Britain and Europe, and correspondence with other government departments. Letters and papers frequently carry annotations from the Home Secretary indicating his response to the incoming mail.

Prior to this project (and its previous phase) the 218 bound volumes and loose bundles of papers in HO 42 were only catalogued to file level, providing a generic description and date range. A team of volunteers working on site and remotely have continued this work, producing item-level descriptions detailing date, sender and subject matter of each individual piece of correspondence.

This phase covered a total of 35 files (HO 42/49 – 83) dating between 1800 and 1805 – a period which saw hostilities with France under Napoleon, the Treaty of Amiens, and growing sedition and rebellion at home. In total, project has created 4,433 new catalogue entries, allowing researchers speedier access to material from this period of British history.

Selected highlights of catalogue improvement mini-projects in response to user feedback

BT 31: Board of Trade: Files of Dissolved Companies

Details describing the physical description of records was updated in two stages. 1,438 files and items were updated in January, 3,789 files and items in March 2020.

Spelling updates

Amendments have been made to terms and phrases, including: Cape Town (475), British (84), Somerset & Frederick (113).

PIN 48: Ministry of National Insurance and Successors

Former reference information was updated and other records within this series were amended for consistency. 337 files were updated by February 2020.

CAB 132: Lord President’s Committee, Minutes and Papers & CAB 108: Central Statistical Office, Minutes and Papers

607 details of un-referenced items were moved to file descriptions, and 1,748 un-referenced items deleted. This was work completed in February 2020.

The number of records updated through data adequacy projects is 66,965. This includes all levels of catalogue entries and data improvement of description, date, access etc.