Farewell to the Family Records Centre

Sad news courtesy of ‘The Times’ that the Family Record Centre is leaving Clerkenwell and moving to join the National Archives at Kew.

Whatever the organisational reasons for the move, it is sad news for the growing number of family history enthusiasts (my parents included) who visit the Centre.

Located a short bus trip from Kings Cross, Angel and the City, it is highly accessible to visitors from all over the country (even further, once Eurostar comes to St Pancras). And it’s also convenient for combining with visits to the Museum of London, the Guildhall, the Metropolitan Archive, the British Library and other local & family history resources, including Islington’s own local history centre at Finsbury Library.

Part of the reason for the closure it’s argued is greater access to and use of the internet for family history research. Online indexing speeds searches and it’s clearly daft to trek cross-country to check one fact. But I think moving the Family Record Centre to a less accessible location is a mistake.

My mum taught history & I went on to read history & French at university. I loved studying history, learning to read pictures and buildings as well as archives, seeing how the actions, good & bad, of past generations have shaped our present and future. History in the traditional sense of teaching monarchs and battles from the Romans to WWII in date order is now itself a thing of the past. But the interest in history is growing, with film, TV and theatre on board.

It’s wrong to dismiss family history as populist, instead welcome its popularity. Through the history of our families new generations can learn the history of our world. Access to the original documents is at the heart of all historical research; and by moving them to Kew from central London, the powers that be have made that harder.

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