Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Royal opening for ScotlandsPeople Centre

Her Majesty the Queen is to offically open the new ScotlandsPeople Centre on the morning of Friday, July 4th 2008, as confirmed by the Royal Diary's future events page at Following the visit, she will then visit the Queen Margaret University Campus in Edinburgh and open the new Campus.

According to Talking Scot poster TAFKAM, "Work is frantically continuing apace at SP HQ - all the bothies are now gone from the courtyard - all going to look nice and spick and span for Her Majesty's visit on 4th July!" Well, it's the least they could do for the old girl!

Although this is an official ceremony to open the centre, it will not be formally up and running for the public until, it is believed, August 25th, and until this point both the GROS and NAS will operate under current arrangements.

For many years, researchers in Scotland have been able to explore their family histories within the General Register Office for Scotland and National Archives buildings, both of which sit just metres away from each other at the far end of Princes Street, across from the famous Balmoral Hotel. The Victorian GROS building also hosts the Court of the Lord Lyon, the body legally responsible for all things heraldic in the country, which is situated on the first floor. The new centre is a collaboration between these three bodies, and will be hosted in refurbished search rooms located both within the current GROS building and on the ground floor of the National Archives.

As well as the digitised births, marriages and deaths images currently available at the GROS, and the census returns, there will be some major new additions. The Public Register of All Arms and Bearings, which depicts every coat of arms granted within the country from 1672 to 1906 (along with many detailed genealogies), has been digitised and indexed, and will be available at the click of a button - that’s about 12,000 entries in total – and users will also be able to view Scottish wills and testaments up to 1901 at their screens.

Already in the pipeline is the digitisation of the Roman Catholic baptismal and marriage registers, held by the Scottish Catholic Archives, and the indexing of the already digitised 1881 Census and pre-1855 death records held by the GROS, which will be made available towards the end of the year. Further down the road, the digitised Kirk Session Registers, currently available on the first floor of the National Archives building, will also be made available at the same terminals.

Hosting all of these records is a new computer set-up which will replace the current DIGROS search system, which will work in a similar way to the external Scotland’s People website. This is currently undergoing final tests. Users will have accounts within which they can save up to 200 images of records, meaning that they can return at any stage to pick up from where they have left off. There will also be a screen providing links to certain external websites such as Find My Past, through which people can access their own accounts, meaning that it will be possible to access additional information that may also help them. Customers will also be able to get black and white paper prints from the statutory, census and OPR records, but will also be offered a facility to save records directly to a USB memory stick, for a pound per image, and to have large colour prints done from the Public Register if one of their ancestors had a personal coat of arms recorded, though this will be at a higher price still to be determined.

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