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Baroness Ashton visits The National Archives

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Family History Community and Baroness Ashton meet to discuss relocation of The National Archives' section of the Family Records Centre

25 October 2006

The Rt Hon The Baroness Ashton of Upholland, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs, enjoyed a very informative day on 13 September at The National Archives in Kew with representatives from family history and local history societies.

The aim of the day was to discuss in detail The National Archives' plans to relocate its Family Records Centre services from Islington to Kew by the end of 2008. The representatives were given the opportunity to hear at first hand from Baroness Ashton and Natalie Ceeney, Chief Executive of The National Archives, exactly how and why the decision to move the service had been taken.

Most of the records held in The National Archives section of the Family Records Centre are already duplicated both online and at Kew. With the huge increase in online usage, the falling numbers of visitors each year and anticipated shortfalls in future funding, The National Archives has decided to transfer its Family Records Centre service to Kew and run an integrated reading room service there. This will allow funds to continue to be focused on increasing access to its collections through online services.

Attendees were given the opportunity to take part in lively discussions with representatives from The National Archives, The Family Records Centre and Baroness Ashton about what users would like to see at the new family records service when it opens in Kew. The importance of many facilities that needed to move to Kew, including the continued availability of documents on film and a dedicated family history area, were discussed in great detail.

Baroness Ashton said:

"I thoroughly enjoyed meeting fellow family historians and representatives from the wider genealogy community. The day was a great success thanks to the commitment and imagination of all those who attended, and I look forward to seeing many of the ideas generated realised in the development of family history services at Kew in 2008."

Natalie Ceeney, Chief Executive of The National Archives, said:

"It is very important to The National Archives that our users are actively involved with large operational decisions such as the relocation of our services from the Family Records Centre to Kew. We are aware of the popularity of the Islington site, but we are also confident that by working with the family history community we can provide an even better service in Kew by the end of 2008."

The National Archives will be taking into consideration all of the information gathered from this workshop, and other open consultative meetings that have been running over the past few months. These findings will be considered alongside outcomes that have come from discussions with staff who deliver the current family history services. From the conclusions a specification for a new service will be written and available in January 2007. More open forums to discuss the proposals will be organised once the ideas have been formulated.

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