Hands-on in the archives Two

Reading back through my May 2015 Blog; Hands-on in the archives I discuss using Cambridgeshire Archives and the wealth of archive material suitable for your Family History. Cambridgeshire Archives has been through some consultations over the last year so here is an update to my material. There has never been a more crucial time to get out and use your archives – a lack of visitors puts them at further risk.


Opening restricted

Firstly the opening hours at Cambridgeshire Archives (Shire Hall, Cambridge CB3 0AP) and Huntingdonshire Archives (Huntingdon Library, Princes Street, Huntingdon, PE29 3PA) have been slashed.

Cambridgeshire Archives no longer opens after 5pm, and is closed all day Monday and Friday. Saturdays have been cut to the 2nd Saturday of the month by appointment only – and crucially you must book a space by 12pm on the Thursday before. Full opening times here.

Huntingdonshire Archives is closed on a Tuesday and a Thursday, again with no late opening. The Archives is open on the third Saturday of the month by appointment only, and bookings are to be received by 12pm on Friday. Full opening times here.

Huntingdonshire Archives

Group visits

Did you know ‘behind the scenes’ visits to Huntingdonshire Archives can be arranged for groups on request (Thursdays only). Groups will have exclusive use of the search room and material in the archives. For group visits there is a charge of £50 including VAT. For Cambridgeshire Archives group visits can be arranged for Mondays.


On the move

Cambridgeshire Archives is still moving from Cambridge to Ely, and this is likely to be in 2017 rather than this year (update July 2018; likely to be 2019). The Archives will be moving to a new property in Ely (the former Strikes Bowling Alley building), suitable for conversion to PD5454 1 standards for the storage and exhibition of archives. Huntingdonshire Archives, held at Huntingdon library is not affected by this move. FAQs available here.

Due to the move the following records are currently temporarily unavailable (check the website or call the archives before visiting to check if any other records are unavailable):

+ Provisional Land Values Duties returns

+ District Valuation papers of Bury St Edmunds and Cambridge Valuer

+ County Court registers for March and Wisbech

+ Cambridgeshire Public Assistance Committee

+ Cambridge Territorial Army Association

+ Heffers of Cambridge

+ Whittlesey Rural District Council

+ Whittlesey Urban District Council

+ Thorney Rural District Council minutes

+ Wisbech Rural District Council minutes

+ North Witchford Rural District Council minutes

+ Wisbech Borough

Source: Cambridgeshire County Council website; www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk (accessed 29 April 2016).


Finding an Archive across the UK

In my blog in May 2015 I mentioned the ARCHON link (hosted by The National Archives). This is a very useful list of record offices across the UK that hold a substantial collection of records suitable for our family history research. The link has changed as ARCHON is no more, use this link now: http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/find-an-archive. You can also search for archives in other countries.


Doctors handwriting?

Sometimes our ancestors handwriting is in a style unfamiliar to us. The English language is constantly evolving and our ancestors wrote with a very different style even 100 years ago. Palaeography (the study of ancient and historical handwriting) tutorials are contained on the National Archives website (http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/palaeography/). Supporting you with example documents, on-line tutorials take you though reading the handwriting in documents from 1500-1800. With practice, using the tips provided and patience it becomes much easier to read old handwriting. There is a great tutorial for beginners.


Robs tips for reading old handwriting

+ Start by identifying each letter individually, until you get your eye in

+ Produce an alphabet from the document and use this to help read further documents of the same period

+ Compare letters in different words to establish an unrecognised letter form

+ Remember spelling is usually phonetic and not standardised in many documents from 1600-1900; compare two or three similar documents from a similar period to help the deciphering

+ Use a sheet of tracing paper over a copy of the document and write over the letters in your own hand to help decipher them.


Robert Parker is a Genealogist and Trainer, based in Kent. He delivers courses, guidance, talks and research services for those interested in tracing their ancestors. See https://myfamilygenealogy.co.uk/guidance/ for his 5 steps to discovering your ancestors. Contact Robert to discuss your requirements without obligation.

What stories might your ancestors tell?


1 PD 5454:2012 gives recommendations for the storage and exhibition of documents, including books and other library materials. These recommendations apply to permanent and temporary storage of documents, and equally apply to material which is subject to restricted access or is on display. Source: http://shop.bsigroup.com/ProductDetail/?pid=000000000030228041

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