Paul delves into local archives

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Paul Brough, the Archivist at the Hawick Heritage Hub gave a talk at Borders Family History Society’s meeting on 30th March in a packed Evergreen Hall. It was nice to see lots of new faces, most of them from Hawick and its surroundings.

Paul talked about the archives and what new developments mean for family historians. The Hub are now offering access to Scotland’s People for £15 per day (from 9.30 to 12.45 and 1.15 to 4.30) during the week. That’s the same price as in Edinburgh, so why bother travelling to Edinburgh when it’s quicker and more convenient to stay in Hawick ? They have limited places so booking is advised on 01450 360699.

They have put almost all of the paper catalogue to their archive holdings online and they are working on improving your search experience by adding detailed searchable descriptions to each set of records, details about the origin of the records as well as categorising records by subject, identifying records that have lots of named people.

Another idea is to identify collections of records that relate to a specific person, so that if you search for that person you get links to all the records that mention that person. That idea could be used for organisations or places, too. Clearly that’s a big job and one that will take years to complete and although it’ll take more staff time initially, Paul thinks it will save staff time in the long run and will bring more people in to use the archives. They are also planning to add ‘thumbnail’ images to catalogue entries of pictures and to identify places with grid references.

Normally when one goes to an archive, one needs to spend many hours perusing the catalogue and deciding which records will be most useful; there is always the possibility of ordering a set of records and finding out that they’re not relevant or missing records that are significant. Detailed descriptions will mean that we can discover which records we need before we go to the Hub, have a much better chance of getting relevant records and maximising the effectiveness of our visit.

As an example, the first result of a search for Hawick yields the apprentice book covering the period 1886 to 1890 of William Watson & Sons, Dangerfield Mills, Hawick and the description shows that there were more than 30 apprentices and it names them.