Monday, 16 August 2010

Access the internet at the ScotlandsPeople Centre

One of the greatest developments at the ScotlandsPeople Centre is the ability to access the internet from the system's latest computer system. Last week after the Who Do You Think You Are episode featuring Monty Don, I blogged that the way that the centre was represented by the BBC was misleading. The programme apparently showed the celebrity having obtained an English GRO certificate from there, and also looking at the English and Channel Islands censuses. The first part is of course nonsense, English GRO certificates come from the English GRO or from local superintendent registrars' offices in England, but it is possible to access the English census using sites such as FreeCEN, Ancestry and FindmyPast at the centre. In fact there are many websites that the centre will allow access to, but as I mentioned in my post, the caveat is that with pay-to-use sites, you need to have your own personal subscription.

I am grateful to the centre for now for sending out the following screengrabs to show how access to these sites is obtained.

1) Click on "About Our Records" tab at the top of the home page.

2) A completely new screen will pop up - on this, now click on the "Research" tab.

3) Next, click on the left hand menu margin on the option that states "Useful websites"

4) A submenu will appear in that margin with various categories of website that can now be accessed.

Incidentally, if you know the site URL that you wish to access, you can just type it straight into the browser once the new screen pops up.

Many who are used to the old DIGROS system, currently still available for access in the Dundas Room, will still argue that this older system is much better than the new ScotlandsPeople System, making the point about certain functions that could be carried out on DIGROS that the new system did not replicate when it first launched e.g. the ability to step through a year at a time on the return of search results. The difference between DIGROS in the old GROS centre however, and the new system in the ScotlandsPeople Centre, is that the new set up is part of a family history centre, not a vital records centre, and family history is much more than accessing just the BMD records. The criticism that certain functions were not present on the news system is fast becoming obsolete as such functions continue to be introduced to the new set up, and any errors picked up on and addressed.

The ability to access external; websites at the centre can make a heck of a difference in your research. The following is an example from my book Researching Scottish Family History on how this might make a difference if you are doing research into a military ancestor:

"In addition, the centre holds many other useful sources, and its computers can also be used to access a collection of externally based website resources during your research. A useful example would be if you were to discover a soldier in your family who died fighting during the First World War. A death certificate will provide the soldier’s basic details such as name, service number, regiment and date and place of death. However, Ancestry ( might provide you with his full service record if it has survived, as well as a medal index card, the NAS catalogue will allow you to look for a will which may have been registered whilst he was on active service, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website ( can help to identify where he was buried, and other sites such as FindmyPast ( may provide access to an entry within the Soldiers Who Died in the Great War collection, which might include additional information such as a birthplace."

The ability to use more than just the centre's own resources online whilst seated at your terminal could make your day's research considerably more fruitful, so if you have yet to look to see what can be accessed, it is well worth exploring on your next trip there.

Professional genealogical problem solving and research
Researching Scottish Family History (New book)

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