The Genealogist’s Internet

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21. The World of Family History

Societies and organizations



Magazines and journals



Online shops

Professional researchers

Lookup services


Previous chapters have looked at ways of using the internet in direct connection with your own pedigree. This chapter looks at the ‘non-virtual’ world of family history which exists offline, and how you can use the internet to find out about it.

Societies and organizations

National bodies

There are a number of national genealogical bodies, all of which have websites:

Family history societies

There are around 200 local family history societies in the UK and Ireland, the overwhelming majority of which have websites. Most of these societies are members of one or more of the four national federations/associations listed above (which are themselves umbrella organizations, not family history societies in their own right). The FFHS includes many member societies from Wales and Ireland, and most English societies are Federation members.

The definitive starting point for finding FHS websites is Genuki’s ‘Family History and Genealogy Societies’ page at <>. This lists the national organizations and has links to separate pages for the constituent nations of the British Isles, where details of local societies are to be found.

The individual FHS websites vary greatly in what they offer, but all will have contact details and usually a list of publications. Most do not have their own online shops, but over 60 of them have an online ‘stand’ at GENfair, the FFHS online shop, at <> — see p. 389 below.


There is a wide range of genealogical meetings, lectures, conferences and fairs in the UK, from the individual meetings of family history societies to major national events such as Who Do You Think You Are? Live. One of the easiest ways to find out about such events is via the web.

The major source for the whole of the UK is the Geneva page (the Genuki Calendar of GENealogical EVents and Activities) at <>, run by Malcolm Austen on behalf of Genuki and the Federation (Figure 21-1). This lists events from the Society of Genealogists’ programme, any family history society events submitted, as well as the regional family history fairs regularly held around the country. (It does not, though, generally include society events open only to members.) The SoG offers a substantial programme of IT-related events, many of which cover the use of the internet for genealogy. Details will be found on the Society’s website at <>.


Figure 21-1: Geneva

The National Archives’ programme of events, many of which are of interest to genealogists, can be found online at <>. All talks are subsequently made available via the Archive Media Player at <>.

The annual Who Do You Think You Are? Live show at Olympia, which includes the Society of Genealogists’ Family History Show and the National History Show, has a website at <>. Family History Fairs has been running local fairs around the country for almost twenty years and their website at <> gives locations and details for forthcoming events. Dates of all these shows are included in Geneva.


If you are interested in getting tuition in genealogical skills, the web is an ideal place to look for courses. The SoG offers a number of half- and one-day courses, listed on their events calendar at <>. For more intensive study, the IHGS has a complete syllabus of genealogy courses, each leading to a formal qualification — details of the qualifications and courses are linked from <>.

The website for your local authority should have details of adult education in your area. For Greater London and over 30 other counties and metropolitan areas, Floodlight provides listings of what is on offer in the region at <>. Family history courses are listed under ‘History’, then under ‘Family History’. Once you are looking at the family history courses on one Floodlight site, there are links to ‘Family History courses in other areas’ at the bottom of the right-hand column.

It is also worth checking the website of your local universities or colleges, whose Continuing Education departments may have suitable offerings in family or local history. Birkbeck College, London offers beginners’ and intermediate genealogy courses, taught at the London Metropolitan Archives, details of which are at <>. If you are looking for more advanced courses, both the University of Strathclyde and the University of Dundee offer postgraduate qualifications — details at <> at <> respectively.

While there has been an explosion in online courses in the last few years, this has still to make an much of an impact on the world of family history, in the UK at least. The reason is that running online courses requires a considerable technical and administrative infrastructure, which genealogy organizations themselves are not often in a position to provide.

However, many universities are developing the possibilities of online courses, and so far there are two which include family history in their range of subjects:

Brigham Young University in Utah, run by the Mormon Church, has a range of free online family history courses linked from <>. Naturally, the courses are designed for North American users, so while all the courses offer good general guidance, detailed information on particular records may be positively misleading if applied to research in the British Isles. The background material in the courses on French, German, Huguenot and Scandinavian research, though, is useful to anyone with ancestors from these countries.

Pharos at <> is a commercial company which runs online family history courses. There are around 40 different courses, which mostly focus on specific areas of genealogical research (e.g. the census, wills, Scottish research) rather than on general genealogical skills. All the tutors are well-known experts in their field. Pharos has partnerships with the SoG, the Guild of One-Name Studies and AGRA. Hotcourses allows you to filter the results of your initial subject search to display only ‘online/distance learning’ offerings.

The Irish Times has a commercial online course ‘Tracing Your Irish Ancestors’, details of which will be found at <>. Local History Magazine has a list of local history course providers at <>.

Magazines and journals

Many genealogical print publications have a related website, with at least a list of contents for the current issue and in some cases material from back issues.

The most comprehensive online listing is the ‘Magazines, Journals, Columns & Newsletters’ page on Cyndi’s List at <>. Subtitled ‘Print & Electronic Publications for Genealogy’, this page provides links to websites for dozens of print magazines, though many of course will be of interest only to those with North American ancestry.

The sites for the main UK genealogical monthlies available on the news-stand are:

ScotlandsPeople runs a bi-monthly electronic magazine, Discover My Past Scotland, with each issue around 40 pages long. From the main page at <>, you can look at a preview — the magazine opens in a special viewer — or take out a subscription.

The SoG’s website has a partial subject and name index to the Genealogists’ Magazine at <> and the contents pages of the most recent issue are also available. Society members can download an electronic copy of the current magazine. This is starting to become popular with local family history societies, too, particularly the larger ones: electronic journals accessible to members and openly available subject indexes or tables of contents. For example, the Devon FHS has a public index to its magazine, Devon Family Historian, at <>.

One thing to watch out for is that societies often link to their journal by name, so it might not be obvious that the ‘Historian’ button on the Devon FHS home page or the ‘Origins’ link on the Buckinghamshire FHS home page at <> will take you to the page for the journal.

The IHGS has a website for its magazine Family History at <>, with a downloadable list of articles.

In the past, there have been a number of magazines devoted specifically to the use of computers in genealogy, but now that almost every genealogist is online, these have largely disappeared. A US magazine Internet Genealogy was launched in 2006 and is published bi-monthly both in print and on the web, with a website at <>.

History and local history magazines are also likely to have material of interest to family historians, and the web makes it easy to check which past issues cover subjects of interest to you. The bi-monthly magazine Local History has a website at <> with an index to the contents of past issues back to 2003 at <>, as well as the usual listing for the latest issue. The site also provides links to other local history resources on the web, and a useful listing of local history societies at <>. The BBC History Magazine has a main website at <> with details of back issues and a growing series of monthly podcasts on topics from the printed magazine.


Email newsletters

As well as print publications, there are of course purely online publications for genealogists. Links to these will be found on Cyndi’s List at <>. The majority are US-based, so are not of relevance to UK genealogists where they deal with genealogical records, but they often have useful material on general genealogical topics, including the use of the internet.

Probably the best known of these US publications is Dick Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter, which originated on the Genealogy Forum in CompuServe, long before CompuServe was part of the internet. It is particularly strong on coverage of genealogy software and genealogical developments on the internet. Dick has many contacts in the UK, and regularly includes items of genealogy news from Britain. There are two versions of the newsletter. The Standard Edition is available free of charge and you can receive the articles by email or read them online at <>. The Plus Edition is only available by paying a subscription of $5.95 for three months or $19.95 for a year. It contains all the articles in the Standard Edition with the addition of one or two extra items each week. Even if you don’t want to subscribe to the Plus Edition, you can purchase individual articles of interest for $2. There is also a discussion board where you can discuss individual articles and general IT topics. All issues back to the very first in January 1996 can be searched by keyword from the search box on the home page.

Many of the major organizations and data services mentioned in this book have electronic newsletters designed to keep you informed of developments. For example, you can subscribe to The National Archives’ ‘enewsletter’ from <> and details of the FFHS’s ‘ezine’, along with links to past issues, will be found at <>. There will normally be a link to information about such newsletters on the home page of a site.

While most newsletters from commercial companies concentrate on their own activities, there are two that offer much more general coverage. LostCousins (see p. 236) has a fortnightly email newsletter with general family history news and good coverage of online developments in the British Isles. Non-users can see the latest newsletter at <>. The newsletter of the online family tree service GeneaNet (see p. 235) is international in scope but carries many UK news items and is particularly good on latest developments in genealogy software. Details and the archive of back issues will be found at <> with a blog version at <>.

A list of particular interest to anyone who wants to keep up with new genealogy websites is the CyndisList mailing list, which sends out a daily message listing all new submissions which have been made to Cyndi’s List. Details and an archive of past messages will be found at <>.


Setting up and running an email newsletter requires a certain amount of technical expertise, and there is always a problem with non-delivery to some subscribers. But the rise of blogging has completely transformed this situation, making it possible for anyone to set up a web-based newsletter with ease.

A blog (short for ‘web log’) is simply a web page where the owner(s) can use a simple interface to post messages, the most recent appearing at the top of the page. Blogging systems take care of all the issues of web page design, making it possible even for the internet novice to publish online. Blogs also have a facility for visitors to leave comments on each posting.

Although reading someone’s daily ramblings about how they’re getting on with their genealogical research is of limited interest, outside their immediate family at least, the blog format is ideal for publishing snippets of information or opinion, and is an ideal way to keep up with new developments in the world of family history.

The most useful listing of genealogy blogs is probably the Genealogy Blog Finder at <>, which tracks over 1,750 genealogy blogs, sorted into around 30 categories, with a brief description. This listing includes many personal blogs, that are only likely to be of interest to a small number people, such as the hundred or so single-surname blogs. Geneabloggers has a list of over 2,000 genealogy blogs at <>, but it gives only the name of each blog, making it difficult to identify those which cover a particular subject unless the blog’s name is very explicit. A more concise list, concentrating on the major blogs, is the ‘Blogs for Genealogy’ page on Cyndi’s List at <>.

Google has a dedicated Blog Search at <>, but this searches the contents of blogs, not just the titles of the blogs themselves. Even so, it could be useful for identifying blogs which cover a particular genealogical topic.

A feature on many blogs is the ‘blogroll’, a set of links, typically in the right-hand column of the page, to other blogs the author thinks you may be interested in. This can be a good way to find other useful blogs.

Genealogical blogs of general interest include:


Figure 21-2: British GENES blog

Among the blogs from individual companies and organizations are:

There are also blogs devoted to very particular topics, for example:

For more extensive discussion of blogging for genealogists, see Dick Eastman’s piece ‘Blogs explained’ at < online_genealogy/2005/11/blogs_explained.html>. at <> is probably the best-known site for starting your own blog.

One problem with personal blogs is that people often start them full of enthusiasm but let them fall into neglect after a few months. It is not uncommon to come across a genealogy blog that has had no new entries for a year or more. Of course there may still be useful information in the existing entries.

News feeds

As with the web-based forums discussed in Chapter 18, it can be tedious to keep visiting a blog to see if there are any new postings, especially if it is updated irregularly or infrequently. But most blogs (and indeed many other news sites) provide a ‘news feed’, which means that you are alerted when a new entry is posted.

There are too many options to cover in detail, but the Wikipedia article on ‘Web feed’ provides a starting point for more detailed information, and the BBC News site has an article on ‘News feeds from the BBC’ at <>, which explains how to receive the feeds from their site, and this is equally applicable to blogs. The orange-and-white icon shown in Figure 21-3 is a commonly used symbol for a news feed (and you will often see the abbreviation RSS, which, strictly, applies only to one type of feed, but is also used generically for news feeds).


Figure 21-3: RSS news feed icon

Your browser may have the facility to use these news feeds — for example, Firefox’s ‘live bookmarks’ — as does some email software, such as Microsoft Outlook. Otherwise you can download a piece of free software called a ‘news reader’ or ‘news aggregator’ to do this for you. Alternatively, if you have an account with Google or Yahoo, your Google or Yahoo home page can be set to display the titles of the latest entries from the blogs you are interested in.


Twitter is a so-called ‘micro-blogging’ service, which allows people to post brief messages called ‘tweets’ of not more than 140 characters. The world of genealogy is not exactly fast-moving, and the need for daily, let alone hourly updates on the activities of individual genealogists is hardly great. And there is very little useful genealogical information that can be carried in 140 characters.

Names of Twitter feeds are prefixed by the @ symbol, and to view the tweets on the web, you go to < > omitting the @. So the Twitter feed for the Guild of One-Name Studies is @GuildOneName and the web address is <>.

If you do not already use Twitter, then there’s probably no particular reason to use it just for genealogical purposes. On the other hand, if you’re already a user, then there are a number of feeds worth looking at. For example, many archives have Twitter feeds, which are valuable for regular users, proving up-to-date news on new resources and any changes to the facilities, including:

Twitter feeds for commercial data services include:

The feeds for those professionally involved in genealogy can be useful for keeping up with what’s going on in the world of family history. For example, @SoGGenealogist is the Twitter feed for Else Churchill of the Society of Genealogists.


The web is an excellent source of information about genealogical software, since all the major software companies and many individual software authors have websites providing details of their products. Genealogy shareware can be downloaded from the sites, and even for normal commercial products there will often be a trial or demo version available for download.

The best starting point for genealogy software is Wikipedia, which has articles on all the main programs and comparison tables for both desktop and web-based programs. All the relevant pages are linked from the ‘Genealogy software’ article. Other comparison tables are provided by Family Tree Software Comparison at <>, which lists the features of five popular programs and several different versions of Family Tree Maker. The best-known retailers of genealogy software in the UK are S&N Genealogy Supplies at <> and TWR Computing at <>. Both offer a wide range of products and their websites offer considerable help in choosing the right software for your budget and requirements.

For links to a wider range of programs, Cyndi’s List has a ‘Software & Computers’ category at <>. This lists over 100 pedigree databases (though not all of them are for English speakers) as well as a range of other software tools for special purposes such as charting or mapping. There are links to the websites of all the major genealogy software companies.

Probably the best way to keep up with genealogy software news are two of the genealogy blogs: Dick Eastman’s Genealogy Newsletter (see above) regularly includes news of major new releases and often provides fairly detailed reviews; GeneaNet’s Genealogy blog at <> carries announcements of new programs and software updates.

If you are just starting to use a computer for genealogy, it is probably worth downloading one of the two major freeware genealogy database programs for Windows:

If you subsequently decide to change to a different program, it is a straightforward matter to transfer your data from either program. These and five other free programs are briefly compared at <>.

For normal commercial software, some of the online shops discussed in the next section offer a selection, while specialist suppliers have a wider range and can offer more detailed advice. If you are new to genealogy software, you are strongly recommended to use a specialist supplier who can offer advice, rather than simply selecting something off the shelf at your local computer store. Most genealogical software companies also have online ordering facilities, and if you can survive without a printed manual, you can often download the software immediately after making a credit card payment.

Mobile genealogy

With the rise of the smartphone, mobile genealogy has become much more practicable and popular, with the particular benefit that you can easily take all your family tree information with you when going to interview relatives or visit a record office. Although nothing like as numerous as the desktop genealogy programs, there are a number of smartphone apps for storing your pedigree as well as for more general tasks such as taking notes. The apps themselves can be downloaded from the relevant app store for the particular smartphone operating system.

The most comprehensive site devoted to this topic is Mobile Genealogy at <>, which has regular news about developments in mobile genealogy and links to software applications for the various mobile operating systems. Cyndi’s List has a ‘Mobile devices’ page at <> with around 80 links. Mobile genealogy is a recurring topic in the Online Genealogy Newsletter of the much-travelled Dick Eastman (see p. 382).

FamilySearch has a number of articles on the subject among their TechTips at <>. These can be found via two menu options: ‘How To’s and Tips’ → ‘Using Mobile devices for Genealogy’ and ‘Apps and Tools’ → ‘Phone Apps’. The articles on ‘Using Your Smartphone for Genealogy’ at <> and ‘Be Prepared for Genealogical Research with your Smartphone’ at <> are good places to start.

Online shops

Apart from the general online booksellers such as Amazon at <>, there are a number of online shops for genealogy books, data on CD-ROM, and software. Almost all use secure online ordering, though some are just online lists and orders must be sent by email or post.

The FFHS’s online shop GENfair is at <> and sells not only the Federation’s own publications, both books and data, but also books from many other publishers. As mentioned on p. 378, the site also includes many ‘stands’ where the publications of local family history societies can be bought (see the Supplier List at <>).

Parish Chest at <> offers products from around 40 different suppliers, each of whom has a separate page on the site listing their products. Also, from the index pages relating to geographically based records (e.g. census, directories) you can select a particular county to find all suppliers with products of that category for the county. A search facility lets you search for products by name.

The IHGS has an online shop at <>. In addition to buying books and software online, you can also use the site to book places on the Institute’s courses.

The National Archives has an online bookshop at <>. The Society of Genealogists has an online shop at <>. This offers the complete range of the Society’s own publications and a selection of books from other publishers. You can also use it to book places on the Society’s lectures and courses or to renew your membership.

The Internet Genealogical Bookshop run by Stuart Raymond has a website at <>. However, this is not an online store — books must be ordered by email and paid for on receipt of invoice.

Many other bookshops are listed on Cyndi’s List at <>.

If you are searching for second-hand books, there are also sites, such as UKBookworld at <> or Abebooks at <>, that will search the catalogues of many individual booksellers. John Townsend has a large stock of second-hand genealogy books with an online catalogue but offline ordering and payment at <>.

The online auction site eBay at <> has a wide selection of genealogy items for sale, mainly books and CD-ROMs. These can be found under ‘Books, Comics & Magazines’ > ‘Non-Fiction Books’ > ‘Genealogy/FamilyHistory’, though searching on ‘Genealogy’ may be quicker.

Secure purchasing

Concern is often expressed about the security of online payments, and many people are wary of making online purchases by credit card, but although there are certainly some dangers, the reservations are out of all proportion to the actual risks. In fact, online transactions are much more secure than ordering over the phone. As long as your browser is using a secure connection, which means that anything you type in is encrypted before being sent across the internet to the supplier, your details will be infinitely more secure than most of the ways you already use your card.

Probably the least likely avenue of credit card fraud is someone hacking into your internet connection. The ‘Fraud the Facts 2011’ leaflet, downloadable from the Financial Fraud Action UK site (follow the ‘Downloads’ link from <>) states that the commonest type of card fraud ‘involves the theft of genuine card details in the real world that are then used to make a purchase over the internet, by phone, or by mail order’. The UK Government website has some brief advice on ‘Shopping safely online’ at <>.

Of course, even if you are careful, you cannot be sure that a supplier will be — there have been enough reports of account or card details being inadvertently published online. The real danger is not interception of your details in an online transaction, but that a supplier will subsequently store your card details unencrypted on a computer which is then stolen, hacked into or, of course, left on a train. But this is just as likely to happen with telephone orders.

Although individual credit card purchases are the most common way of paying for goods and services over the internet, there is an alternative method you may come across. Web-based payment systems like PayPal at <> and WorldPay at <> work by giving you an account from which you can then make online payments. All your financial transactions are with the payment system itself, which pays other sites on your behalf, so you are only giving your financial details to a single organization. This sort of system is particularly good for traders who may not qualify to accept credit card payments, and is much used by online auction systems such as eBay, where the participants are private individuals rather than businesses and would not be permitted to accept credit card payments.

Service online

In fact, a more significant problem with online suppliers is getting hold of them to deal with problems relating to your order or the product you have bought, particularly if the website gives no phone number or postal address. However, online traders based in the UK are bound by the same consumer protection legislation as any other trader.

Before the advent of the internet, purchasing anything abroad from the comfort of the UK was far from straightforward. Online shopping has made this much easier and, of course, those who live outside the UK can now easily order materials from British genealogy suppliers. Some practical difficulties remain: returning wrong or faulty products is not made easier by the internet, though of course it is no more difficult than with traditional catalogue-based home shopping.

Also, you are less likely to be familiar with the reputations of overseas traders, which could be a source of concern in areas where UK consumer legislation does not apply — an impressive website does not guarantee quality of service, let alone financial viability. However, one of the strengths of the internet is that it is a good word-of-mouth medium, and it is very unlikely that there could be an unreliable genealogy company whose misdeeds have escaped being reported in the discussion forums. These are therefore good places to look for reports from other customers on their experiences with companies, or to place a query yourself. For UK genealogy companies, look at the archives of the GENBRIT mailing list at <> for past comments on genealogy suppliers, or post a query yourself.

Professional researchers

There are many reasons, even with the internet, why you might want to employ a professional genealogist to undertake research for you: if you cannot get to the repository where original records are held, whether for reasons of time or distance; or if the records themselves are difficult for the non-specialist to use or interpret.

The SoG has a leaflet ‘Employing a Professional genealogist’s on its website at <>, while Cyndi’s List has a page on ‘Professional Researchers, Volunteers & Other Research Services’ at <>. Michael John Neill has an interesting and detailed article on his own experience with a professional researcher at <>.

The Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives (AGRA) is the professional body for genealogical researchers in the UK, with a website at <>. This provides a list of members, and an index to this by specialism, whether geographical or subject-based. Most of the Association’s members can be contacted by email. The Association’s code of practice is also available on the site. Even if you don’t employ an AGRA member to do your research, the code of practice is helpful in showing what standards to expect from any professional researcher.

The National Archives’ website also has a database of Independent Researchers who are prepared to undertake commissions for research in records at TNA. The database is accessible from <> and must be searched by subject heading, chosen from a drop-down list. The resulting list does not seem to be in any particular order.

For Scotland, the Association of Scottish Genealogists and Record Agents (ASGRA) is the professional association for researchers, and its site at <> has details of members and their specialisms.

Accredited Genealogists Ireland has a website at <> with a list of members. Individual researchers for Ireland can be found on the National Archives of Ireland website at <>.

Membership of one of the professional organizations guarantees that a researcher has reached a high level of skill in genealogy. A similar guarantee is provided by possession of a formal qualification in genealogy, of which those of the IHGS are the best known — the Higher Certificate, Diploma and Licentiate are regarded as professional-level qualifications (see p. 379). The IHGS has a list of those who have passed its professional qualifications at <>.

Employing a researcher beyond the British Isles is more difficult, particularly where there may be language problems, but eXpertGenealogy at <> has extensive listings not only for the UK but also for Europe, the US and the rest of the world. It may well be worth posting a message in a discussion forum related to the country concerned to ask for personal recommendations.

Lookup services

If all you need is someone to check a particular reference for you, employing a professional researcher will be overkill. The internet makes it easy to find someone with access to particular printed publications, or records on CD-ROM, who will do a simple lookup for you. So-called ‘lookup exchanges’ give a list of publications and the email address of someone prepared to do searches in each. There is, unfortunately, no central listing of these, but most are county-based and there are links to the relevant exchanges from the individual Genuki county pages. The county forums on RootsChat at <> have places for posting lookup offers and requests.

Lookups are done entirely on a voluntary basis, so requests should be as specific as possible, and you may need to use a specific subject line in your message — see the details at the top of each page before sending a request. And, of course, be reasonable in what you expect someone to do for you in their own time.

One particular thing to bear in mind is that getting someone to do a lookup for you on one of the commercial data services is almost certainly asking them to break the terms and conditions of their subscription. Since most data services offer an inexpensive pay-per-view option, are available free of charge in a number of libraries and archives and in some cases offer a free trial, asking for lookups on these services via a mailing list may be interpreted by the uncharitable as a sign of fecklessness.


National organizations such the Federation of Family History Societies and the Society of Genealogists, as well as individual local societies, have always been involved in lobbying on behalf of the family history community. The promise of an early release for the 1926 census of the Irish Free State is largely due to the campaign of the Council of Irish Genealogical Organisations (see <>). Freedom of Information legislation has also given individuals the ability to exert pressure on government departments and agencies to release data, most notably in the case of Guy Etchells’s success in getting early access to the 1911 census of England and Wales and to 1939 National Identity Card records. The web, however, has made it possible for individuals and ad hoc groups to gather support on particular issues much more easily than was ever the case before.


In 2006, the UK Labour government introduced an electronic petition system on the website of the Prime Minister’s Office. Any online petition with 200 or more signatures was guaranteed a response from the relevant Government department. A number of petitions relating to genealogical interests were submitted, the most notable being one to reduce the census closure period to 70 years, which closed with 23,602 signatures. This petition and the official response can be seen in the Government Web Archive at <> (3 July 2011) (Figure 21-4).


Figure 21-4: Census petition in the Government Web Archive

The Coalition government has retained the principle and a new e-petitions site was set up at <>. However, while any petition with 100,000 signatures will be considered for debate in the House of Commons, no response is provided for less successful petitions, which severely reduces the value of the service for special interest groups.

At the time of writing, there are a couple of petitions relating to the issue of civil registration certificates and a few requesting earlier release of census records. None of the genealogy-related petitions has above 5,000 signatures nor looks remotely likely to reach the 100,000 threshold, and indeed the existence of several slightly different petitions on the same subject seems to reduce further the chances of success. The site only accepts petitions relating to matters directly controlled by central government, so cannot be used as a channel to raise concerns about, for example, the impact of local authority budget cuts on library and archive services, which in any case probably wouldn’t reach 100,000 signatures.

So, although e-petitions are very welcome in principle, in practice it seems unlikely that any genealogy-related petition on its own, without a national publicity campaign and support from genealogy organizations, could ever be successful under the current system. And, in fact, early census release and the liberalization of access to certificates are probably the only issues ever likely to elicit a large enough body of support.

The Welsh Assembly has its own e-petition system at <> and the Scottish Parliament’s e-petitions site is at <>. In each case, all submitted petitions are considered by the appropriate committee. I haven’t been able to find any genealogy-related petitions on either site.

Campaign groups

There are recently formed campaign groups devoted to two of the broad issues of concern among genealogists.

Action 4 Archives is a movement which arose in response to proposed cuts in facilities and staffing at The National Archives in 2009. While those cuts have now been implemented, the group has expanded its focus beyond this one repository to ‘highlight the threat to our local archives, museums and libraries posed by budget cuts and impact on genealogy, local, social and academic history’. At the time of writing, the home page of the campaign’s website at <> is merely a holding page, though using a search engine you can find sub-pages relating to the original TNA campaign. There is a Twitter feed at <>, which carries news of record office developments, particularly reductions in opening hours.

The Open Genealogy Alliance was founded in March 2011, as part of the broader Open Rights movement (see <>), to campaign for free access to genealogical records. The alliance’s particular concern is that the digitization and online provision of public records has become an exclusively commercial enterprise, which conflicts with the principle that access to these records should be free (this issue is discussed in the next chapter). The alliance’s aim is to support institutions and volunteer groups to develop alternative models for the digitization of archival materials so that ‘all key genealogical datasets are made truly open and available under an open license that allows anyone to freely use, reuse and distribute without reservation’. The alliance’s manifesto is on its home page at <>, which also has links to a blog and Twitter feed.

Next chapter: 22 Issues for Online Genealogists