Cataloguing projects 2020-21

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 2021

ADM 199: Convoy reports

ADM 199 contains papers regarding the administration of the Royal Navy, principally the planning and execution of naval operations during the Second World War. This includes convoy reports, records of the First Sea Lord, diaries and event summaries of fleets, stations and squadrons, records of submarines and details of ships lost or damaged.

The scope of the ADM 199 cataloguing project was predominantly on convoy reports from across the whole war time period, enhancing a selection of non-consecutive files and volumes in the range of ADM 199/2194. These reports detail information relating to incidents that occurred during voyages, including signal logs, and diary entries of contact with enemy vessels and with other ships. The project aimed to provide enhanced catalogue entries, including more detailed information about specific convoys, using their letter designations. In total, 15,227 item-level descriptions have been produced and enhanced catalogue entries for 232 files are now available on Discovery.

The project was delivered by an established team of volunteers from the Friends of The National Archives, with work being carried out on site at Kew.

BT 390: Merchant Seamen agreement forms

This series contains agreement forms detailing the sea service of merchant seamen who served on Royal Navy auxiliary vessels and rescue tugs.

BT 390 consists of 236 boxes of pouches (envelopes). Discovery was initially populated with a basic piece description providing the first and last surname and initials. An earlier attempt to catalogue each individual pouch had resulted in 32 boxes with 2,957 pouches having full descriptions.

Using volunteers, the remaining 204 boxes from the originals have now been catalogued, adding descriptions for name, place of birth, date of birth and service number. Over 500,000 words have been added to Discovery. As well as improving the descriptions, the project has also had some other benefits. We can build up a far better idea of how many men served on auxiliary ships and tugs. The statistics tell us that there are 24,187 individuals in this series. 18,337 merchant seamen served on auxiliary ships and 5,664 served on tugs. We also know that 186 were Asian seamen. Some of these were Chinese but the majority were Moslem, largely from Egypt, India and Aden.

WARD 2: Courts of Wards and Liveries

This year marks the completion of a project initiated by the Medieval and Early Modern Records team in 2008 to catalogue the deeds and evidences submitted to the Court of Wards and Liveries, the early modern court which dealt with the transfer of inheritance and the custody of underage heirs. Previously accessible through a cursory list of only part of the series in the sixth Report of the Deputy Keeper of Public Records (1845), Discovery now contains over 8,000 WARD 2 descriptions enhanced with person and place names identified as far as possible. Dates have been modernised and accurate date ranges given where possible. Notes have been added regarding the physical condition of the documents and the attachment of any wax seals or signatures. Process notes on the back of the documents (endorsements) are also fully described.

WARD 2 is rich with not just charters (land transactions) and proofs of age, but also manorial surveys, rentals, personal papers and even family pedigrees from many counties of England and parts of Wales. Though an early modern court, litigants submitted evidence that dates as far back as the 12th century to prove their title. Documents are recorded in Latin, Anglo-Norman French and English but descriptions are rendered into modern English with uncertain words and unidentified personal and place names retained in their original spelling.

The National Archives would like to acknowledge the generous support of the Friends of The National Archives (2008-2009) and the Marc Fitch Fund (2009-2010) for two main phases of the project. Similarly, we would like to acknowledge the work of volunteers and archive interns between 2013 and 2019.

Early military mapmakers card index data conversion

In spring 2020 a project to input data from a 50-year-old card index to Discovery was completed. The cards were written by the first Head of Map Department, Peter Penfold, in the 1960s and 1970s, and relate to a corps of mapmakers known as ‘the Draughtsmen in the Tower of London’, the earliest incarnation of what later became the Ordnance Survey. The card index included 325 references of individual appointments in the careers of 227 men, dated between 1722 and 1817.

The index gave information about some of the entries in 11 volumes in five War Office record series held at The National Archives, mainly those concerning business of the Board of Ordnance which was in charge of supplies to the army, including maps. File descriptions, which were previously very brief, for example ‘Establishments 1783-1805’, now list men’s names together with dates and brief details, such as posts to which they were appointed, or if they served abroad. Occasionally employment details of their fathers are given.

Reference numbers enhanced include:

  • WO 34/206 Monthly Reports of the Drawing Room at the Tower 1778-1782 among papers of Baron Amherst, Commander in Chief 1712-1786
  • WO 44/517 Correspondence between the Ordnance Office and the War Office, this volume dated 1816-1819
  • WO 46/10 Ordnance Office out-letters, this volume dated 1775-1777
  • WO 54/199, WO 54/207-208, WO 54/214-215, WO 54/217 entry books for establishments c.1720, 1741-1743, 1760-1780, 1783-1805
  • WO 55/419 Register of Artillery Pensions, Ireland, dated 1831; and WO 55/2281 Index of Correspondence about Ordnance Plans and Drawings 1700-1819

Some cards list maps produced by the cartographers. These have not been included in the data extracted from the cards because the references are all searchable in our online catalogue (Discovery) by name of cartographer, and so will be returned in the same search with the references relating to appointments and establishments.

MH 106 (Phase 1): Theatre of war medical records

A selection of catalogue entries for this series have been enhanced as part of a project funded by the Wellcome Trust.

The records in this series are a representative selection of several types of medical records from various theatres of war. They were brought together by the Medical Research Committee and the British Museum during and immediately after the 1914 to 1918 War for use in statistical studies of the treatment for injuries sustained, and diseases contracted, by British troops. The records were later used by the Ministry of Pensions, which inherited them, and subsequently by the War Pensions Branches of its successor departments, to verify claims for war disability pensions.

Included in this series are a significant number of Medical Sheets. The project has catalogued 50% of these pieces creating over 50,000 new items. New data includes:

  • name of individual treated
  • rank
  • unit/battalion/regiment
  • service number
  • age
  • hospital(s) treated in
  • condition/injury/disease
  • details and outcome

The cataloguing work has opened up a significant area of military related material which will add synergy to our First World War war diaries, soldiers’ records, officers’ records etc, as well as to the 1911 census, and will be of great interest to our family history audience as well as our academic audience. Furthermore this project will provide an exceptional data set for future applications for research into physical and mental health at the front during the First World War. Synergy will be added to this once the 1921 census has been opened. This will allow direct record linkage between First World War medical case sheets and post-war census recorded employment and disabilities. This means researchers will be able to use the data set created in Discovery as a central source to move to several other sets within the archival collections.

SP 36: State Papers, Domestic, George II

Beginning in the early winter of 2018, four dedicated volunteers commenced the cataloguing of the final tranche of the ‘State Papers, Domestic, George II’ (i.e. the period theoretically from 1748 to the end of the monarch’s reign in 1760).  While a proportion of this correspondence is written in French, there was also a miscellaneous run of papers at the end, which dated back to the late 17th century.

5,033 item-level descriptions from 57 volumes in the series SP 36 have been released on to Discovery. Prior to this, the series was catalogued for the 2015 Jacobite Anniversary Project (or had been released to Discovery at an earlier date).  The mainly bound letter-book pieces from SP 36/106  onwards had previously only been catalogued to file level, providing a generic description and date range.

The series of records itself is extremely diverse, including material on the post-‘Forty five Rebellion’, crime and punishment, trade and the North American colonies. International diplomacy and major conflicts are also covered with the signing of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, which ended the War of the Austrian Succession in April 1748, and the outbreak of the Seven Years War in 1756.

Many thanks to the volunteers, who finished the project ahead of schedule, working remotely from home in challenging circumstances due to the pandemic.

CO 733: Palestine correspondence

This project has added item descriptions for 125 volumes of correspondence on Palestine between 1921 and 1926, which previously had only generic volume description. From 1926 the Colonial Office opened files with subject titles, which appear on Discovery, but this left five years of correspondence for which no detail other than a general description was available. A team of volunteers added around 6,200 item descriptions to the catalogue. We are extremely grateful to the volunteers for their work.

The correspondence in CO 733 is a key resource for the history of Palestine during the British administration and for the establishment of Israel and Jordan as independent states. The documents are revealing on such topics as Jewish immigration into Palestine, Arab-Jewish relations, the politics of Transjordan and the infrastructural works which the British administration undertook in Palestine.

SP 35: State Papers Domestic, George I

Working from home in challenging circumstances during the pandemic, a dedicated team of four volunteers released 5,791 item-level descriptions from the contents of 47 volumes of SP 35.

While the earlier pieces of the series were part-catalogued for the 2015 ‘Jacobite Anniversary Project’, there was also some stand-alone correspondence that was found to have been released after this date.  Although George I’s reign spanned some 13 years from 1714-1727, there was a discreet run of ‘undated’ miscellaneous papers towards the end of the series.  Numerous records were discovered whose dateline greatly expanded beyond the scope of these regnal years; some documents continued on into the mid-18th century, while others were found to date back to the time of the Stuart Restoration.

E 321: Court Augmentations and General Surveyors

The records in E 321 – the legal proceedings of the Courts of Augmentations and General Surveyors acting in their judicial capacity – describe disputes relating to Crown lands and revenues in the mid-16th century, particularly those of former religious houses and chantries.

This project added 3,486 descriptions to items in E 321/2-39, using images of paper finding aids held in the Map Room, and updated a further 1,192 item descriptions in the remaining pieces in E 321 (E 321/1, 40-46). Enhanced descriptions provide a document short title, plaintiff and defendant names, and subject. Place names have been transcribed as written in the finding aids, and counties have been included where known. If unspecified at piece level, document type has also been described.

Data adequacy projects

For this reporting period, a total of 38 individual adequacy projects were carried out, providing access on Discovery to 52,569 enhanced and improved descriptions across The National Archives’ holdings.