Why visit a Repository when there is so much available on line? Firstly, not everything held in a Repository is available on line and secondly even if a document is available on line it might not include all the pages. It might not explain what all the abbreviations mean or give an explanation regarding the reason for recording such a document.
For instance, until I visited the State Records of NSW, I had never seen the Minerva ship’s captain, Joseph Salkeld’s ship log with an explanation of all the abbreviations against the names of the convicts on board the ship.
As an example of what to expect when visiting a Repository, I have recorded the details of my experience when I visited the state Records of New South Wales. This visit proved very fruitful. Once the Staff on duty could see how enthusiastic I was, they kept offering to locate extra documents for me to view.
An important consideration to decide prior to your visit to a Repository is which documents you will need to pre-order so that the staff can have them ready for you.In most cases you will be allowed to pre-order 4 documents. Please note that no publication of quotations or extracts from these records may be made without the written permission of State Records.
Below is an example of the confirmation that you will receive via email once you email your request.
You will also need to hold a Readers ticket as you will not be allowed to view the original documents without one. This needs to be arranged on line prior to the visit.
Always allow plenty of time for your research visit as you will need to go to the visitor’s desk to register your visit at the security check point and receive a visitors pass which you will need to wear the whole time you are in the Repository.This procedure is needed for your safety and for security reasons
You will also need to have some coins on your person for printouts which can vary in price from one to two dollars
To store your bag in a locker you will need a $2 coin that is refunded at the end of your visit.
Seasoned Genealogists rely on the information gleaned from various websites to be accurate. But, I learned that you can glean so much more information by actually visiting a Repository such as the New South Wales State Records repository.
Not all documents are as you would expect them to be because firstly because they are very old documents, can be very fragile and are sometimes very difficult to read. They have been stored over the years as well as possible for that period of time, but with modern storage solutions, had these been available 200 years ago, they might have survived in better condition. This is by no means the fault of the Archivists as they do take great care of these precious documents.
The documents we viewed were stored in 4 flap folders as shown to us by Rachael from State Library Queensland during our Preservation, Conservation and Restoration Workshop. The documents were then enclosed inside files and tied with white ribbons.
I was required to have my white gloves with me otherwise I would have had to use surgical gloves which become very uncomfortable over a period of time.
We were also lent black cord weights to lay on the open documents to flatten them.
1.Some points to take into consideration when viewing the documents are-
(a) Do the records actually refer to the name of the person on the outside folder or a person with the same name? Perhaps a son or a father?
(b) Is the date on the outside the same as the documents within
(c) Are some important pages missing?
(d) Is the document damaged in the very spot where you need to be able to read it?
(e) Is it too fragile to handle or photocopy.
(f) What size will I photo copy it. Can I read it if I copy it smaller in size than the actual document. Is This false economy?
2. Are there microfilms available that add further detail to the document that I have viewed on Ancestry.com or Find my Past etc. What extra information will that microfilm tell me? In my case these microfilms answered a lot of questions to what appeared to be missing pages in the series of documents. These pages had not been scanned by Ancestry.com.
All in all, a visit to a Repository can be frustrating, enlightening, add a further dimension to your research and answer a number of questions that have been brick walls.
And, if after your visit one of the many helpful Archivists there continues to assist you with you on line research, then it has been well worth the effort.