FEDERATION OF FAMILY HISTORY SOCIETIES

FFHS - supporting family historians for over 40 years

Archives:
How to get the most from using original records

Using original records

Most original records are unique and irreplaceable. They are being kept for future generations as well as our own. Please treat them with great care. Record office rules will deal in detail with how their archives should be treated. For instance:

  • Handle the documents as little as possible, and try not to touch the written text.
  • Do not use a pencil to point out or follow entries.
  • Avoid resting anything, including your papers or body, on the document.

Staff may be able to supply weights, or document supports, to deal with more unwieldy items.

It is always advisable to work backwards in your family history. You will then find it much easier to read the earlier forms of handwriting, having been introduced to them gradually. Search room staff may be able to help with a few difficult words but are unlikely to have time to work through a whole document with you.

Please return documents promptly and in the order in which they were received. If you feel that the original order has been muddled please inform staff before you do anything about it. If documents are misplaced they become very difficult to trace.

Most record offices place a limit on the number of documents you may have at any one time. If you are returning a document which you may require again later in the day, please tell the staff.

Microfilm copies of records too should be treated with care. You will usually be asked to wind back roll film onto the spool it was on to begin with. This is particularly important where the office operates a self-service system for microfilms.

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