Cataloguing projects 2018-19

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 2019

ADM 27: Allotment registers

Catalogue entries for this series have been enhanced as part of a project supported by volunteers, including the Friends of The National Archives.

These allotment registers record payments made by Royal Navy warrant officers and ratings serving on board ships from their wages to next of kin. They cover the period 1795 to 1852, with a gap for the period 1817 to 1829. More than 450,000 entries have been transcribed. Each transcribed entry provides a full ADM 27 document reference with folio number and lists person’s name, name of ship, individual’s pay book number, rank or rating, name and relationship of next of kin, year of allotment/payment, and for the period 1795-1816 the reasons why an allotment payment ended, for example, if the allotter joined another ship or died in service.

The individual’s pay book number (unique to the person) can be found in a ship’s muster or pay book, which can be searched by ship’s name and date on Discovery. The importance of this number becomes apparent when searching the musters of ships manned by upwards of 700–800 men. It is worth noting that ships’ musters from 1761 can provide ages and place of birth – this detail is not provided for commissioned or warrant officers.

In a period where service records for those that served in the Royal Navy do not exist (such records were introduced in 1853), the cataloguing of the allotment registers make this the most significant source for tracing both personal and service histories of those that served in the Royal Navy before then. If a Royal Navy warrant officer or rating made an allotment from his wages on one ship, he would probably continue to make such payments on every ship he served. In other words, there may be several results or more for each individual, making it possible over time to piece together service records and potentially to link into other records, such as ships’ musters or ships’ log books. These registers also make reference to Royal Marines.

COPY 1: Copyright Office

The project has enhanced the descriptions of all the photographs and artworks registered between 1862 and March 1883 under the 1862 Fine Arts Copyright Act (approximately 45,000 new item descriptions). New data includes:

  • description of the photograph/artwork
  • subject
  • place information
  • names of people portrayed
  • type of view
  • photographer’s name
  • copyright holder
  • dimensions

This new data provides historical context and provenance, detailing work produced both commercially and by enthusiasts, and is invaluable to students of photographic history and the development of photography. It also has wide application to all areas of Victorian and Edwardian research such as local history, military history, family history, commercial history, as well as creative endeavour. It will be the first time that any cataloguing work has been undertaken on the artworks registered at Stationers’ Hall.  A little-known and very valuable source for art historians.

RAIL 410 (London and North Western), RAIL 418 (London, Midland and Scottish) and RAIL 92 (Cambrian Railway) – Reports to Board

A total of 88 pieces from RAIL 410 (London and North Western), RAIL 418 (London, Midland and Scottish) and RAIL 92 (Cambrian Railway) have been catalogued to item level, creating 8,120 new items in Discovery.

Users are now able to search through the papers and reports received by the management boards of these companies by keyword, report title and date. The item description provides the title of the report and the section of the document where it can be found. The reports cover interesting topics such as railway accidents, new inventions, contracts and agreements with other companies, staffing issues, costs of equipment, engine carriage and wagon matters, and themes of relevance to the company. The date range for these reports is 1852–1947. The work was completed by staff at The National Archives and volunteers.

HO 334 British Nationality Stage 7: children

This project added the missing names of children from the original naturalisation certificates in HO 334/226–234 for the period 1931–1948 and tidied up descriptions, removing repetitive data and making them easy to understand. The completion of this project means that we are now able to offer a comprehensive search for naturalized children because of this missing data.

INF 1, Ministry of Information: Files of Correspondence (also covering files relating to FO 371, FO 898, and FO 930)

The Ministry of Information (MOI) was set up by the British Government when war broke out in September 1939. It produced national propaganda, which was circulated at home and abroad, and it controlled news and information deemed to be of military value. Its records, found in The National Archives under the INF lettercode departmental code, are of great interest to researchers studying the history of propaganda and communications in the 20th century.

‘Make Do and Mend: A Publishing History of the Ministry of Information, 1936–1946’ was a major Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project led by the Institute of English Studies (University of London). This five-year project was supported by The National Archives, who facilitated research undertaken here by a team employed by the University of London.

One of the benefits of the project is the improvement of a small selection of catalogue descriptions: TNA staff were given access to the project’s research notes and were able to incorporate additional detail from these in our catalogue descriptions. A total of 149 piece descriptions were improved in this way. Most related to the series INF 1, Ministry of Information: Files of Correspondence, but some related to FO 371, FO 898, and FO 930.

HO 334: Home Office: Immigration and Nationality Department: Duplicate Certificates of Naturalisation, Declarations of British Nationality, and Declarations of Alienage, 1870–1987

A further 6,669 expanded item descriptions for certificates in some 2,180 pieces were released on Discovery in January 2019 in relation to the series HO 334. These relate to individuals who were naturalised or registered their British nationality after 1948 and who were born in 1918. As they were born more than 100 years ago, the item descriptions include date and place of birth as well as full name and country of nationality. This cataloguing exercise will be an annual occurrence, enabling researchers to search for this information themselves.

MH 13: Correspondence of General Board of Health, 1848–1858, and Home Office, Local Government ACT Office, 1858–1871

Thanks to the generous funding we have received from the Wellcome Trust over the last five years, The National Archives have catalogued in full the correspondence of the General Board of Health, 1848–1858, and the Home Office, Local Government Act Office, 1858–1871, held in record series MH 13.

This series contains correspondence of the General Board of Health and the Home Office’s Local Government Act Office with local authorities and government departments, relating to the provision and administration of public health, sanitary and other services under the several Public Health and Local Government Acts passed between 1848 and 1871. In addition, a few volumes relate to special subjects such as cholera, yellow fever, and metropolitan nuisances.

The records are arranged alphabetically under urban and rural district councils. Researchers can now search on villages, towns and cities as well as the names of those writing to the central public health authorities. Additionally, searches can be made on disease such as cholera, typhoid or diarrhoea, as well as environmental related words and phrases such as sanitation, sewerage or slaughterhouses (depending upon the research focus).

ADM 157: Royal Marines Attestation Forms, 1790–1925

This series of attestation and discharge records for Royal Marines was historically arranged alphabetically by year of attestation or discharge within division sub-series (Chatham, Plymouth and Portsmouth, among others). This meant that, to find an individual, users needed a number of pieces of information before speculatively ordering records in hope of finding the entry.

In March 2019 a team of volunteers completed a ten-year project to create individual item descriptions, allowing readers to search for former servicemen by name, place of birth, age at attestation, joining date, and reason and date of discharge, as well as other details.

Not only has this dramatically opened up the records to researchers, the ease with which individuals can now be found will reduce unnecessary usage and help preserve the documents for the future.

HO 17: Home Office Criminal petitions

The series comprises 131 pieces but each piece is actually three or four boxes, containing around 150 to 200 items – approximately 20,000 items in all – and each item may contain dozens of piece of correspondence and petitions.

Cataloguing has replaced rather cryptic piece level descriptions, e.g. Petitions: Ab-Ac, with more detailed summaries of the contents of each item, making the records accessible to academic researchers and family historians. Access to these records would previously have been through HO 19 Registers or Find My Past, both of which resources list only the prisoner and not any of the other petitioners or interested parties who may have become involved in a petition, or the circumstances leading to the crime.

The cataloguing work has been carried out by a small, dedicated and knowledgeable team of volunteers, some of whom have been on the project for more than ten years, under the supervision of a member of staff. In addition, stray records have been placed into the correct pieces.

Hearth Tax Exemption Certificates – Wiltshire

The Hearth Tax exemption certificates for Wiltshire (640 documents, comprising 688 folios) are now available in Discovery under reference E 179/348. Welsh counties will be the next to be catalogued.

Selected highlights of catalogue improvement mini-projects in response to user feedback – over 44,000 descriptions improved:

DO 118 Colonial Office Agreements, Treaties and Miscellaneous Documents

Covering date and language information was provided, additional text was moved to the description field and hyperlinks for related material were created.

Spelling corrections to a variety of terms and phrases including: ‘West Indies Regiment’, ‘Mid-Lothian’, ‘Nyasaland’, ‘Lloyd’, ‘Stalag’, ‘Haveford West’ and other place names.

FCO 23 Commonwealth Office Atlantic Department Registered files

Arrangement and structure of descriptions improved as some were under the incorrect sub-series, dates and descriptions amended, abbreviations expanded and cross-references created under related material.

BT 52 Committee of Inquiry into the Provision and Co-ordination of Services to the Family of John George Auckland

Missing legal status, place of deposit and record opening date information added; XML tagging improved behind the scenes.

CO 940 Colonial Office: Singapore Sessional Papers

Inadequate descriptions improved, date and month information added to the date field, closure information for previously retained files corrected.

In addition, we handled 2,088 Discovery suggestions from members of the public. The specific suggestions generated the improvement of 9,224 records.

State of the Catalogue programme update

The State of the Catalogue programme tackles inadequate data proactively in bulk. In 2018–2019 the number of non-unique references, blank dates, and blank descriptions decreased by 16%. We had identified 661,033 data problems at the beginning of April 2018; at the end of March 2019 there were 554,982.

Series benefitting from this work included: ED 2 (Education Department and Successor: Elementary Education, Parish Files), FO 228 (Foreign Office: Consulates and Legation, China: General Correspondence, Series I) and HCA 18 (High Court of Admiralty: Instance Court: Instance Papers, Series III).

Catalogue descriptions for 1,435 public record films held by the British Film Institute on The National Archives’ behalf were added to Discovery as series CD 1.

We continue to tackle the historic backlog of un-accessioned records: the 314 Exchequer Pipe Office deeds in series E 355 were sorted, catalogued and made available to the public for the first time.