Connecting families and creating history during COVID-19 and beyond

‘History Begins at Home’ is a new national campaign which aims to connect people through conversations about history and to capture and then share these conversations, memories and stories through the campaign’s Facebook page and Twitter.

The idea behind the campaign is to encourage family members of different generations to connect or re-connect by discovering previously unknown facts or family stories, sharing memories, experiences and expertise, and then capturing these conversations and findings for the future.

Gary Tuson, County Archivist at Norfolk Record Office and Campaign Lead at History Begins at Home, comments: “COVID-19 has created all sorts of challenges such as separation, isolation, hardship, the need for resilience, the power of community and the desire to help one another. History Begins at Home is the perfect antidote during this period when people can’t visit their family members due to the current restrictions. It’s a fun way to pass some time together on the phone, via FaceTime, Zoom, WhatsApp or other apps. And, with so much emphasis on mental health and well-being during the lockdown, the campaign is an ideal way for people to engage with the recommended ‘5 ways to well-being’: Connect, Give, Be active, Take Notice and Keep Learning.”

Gary adds: “The campaign will initially focus on the past within families, with the goal of sparking discussions around aspects of childhood and adulthood across the generations, such as toys, food, precious things and memories. Each week, we’ll focus on a different theme about the past and encourage people to start a conversation about it, engage in an activity relating to it and then record something about it and, if they like, share what they’ve found out on our Facebook page and Twitter

Getting involved in History Begins at Home is easy – start off by asking a relative for one of their old recipes and share it, find and share a picture of a family member’s favourite childhood toy, an old love letter (or a new one), or ask them about a funny, incredible, interesting, remarkable or obscure story or memory from their past. Who knows what you might discover!

This week being Mental Health Awareness week, its even more important to stay connected. The record office is supporting the History Begins at Home project via Twitter, follow us at @FranklinArchive. This week we have memories of favourite toys!

Take a look and join the conversation on Facebook at:


and on Twitter:





FindersKeepers 2009-2016: job done!

Our home-based volunteer project, FindersKeepers, has finally reached its goal!  That means that our entire stock of catalogue lists is available online.  Or to put it another way, there are no remaining archive collections with catalogue lists that you can only check by looking at a paper copy in our searchroom.

Credit for this achievement is due to our volunteers:


This project has added over 100,000 entries to our online catalogue, opening up Derbyshire’s history to the world.

We are already thinking about where we can go from here to make our records even easier to get at, especially when it comes to helping you work out which of our 7000 or so collections is the most likely to be useful in your research. So expect to hear about new opportunities for home-based volunteers in the new year.  Let’s call it FindersKeepers phase 2…

Completion of this project is a big deal to those of us who work here.  However, I have to admit that a lot of visitors to Derbyshire Record Office start with the assumption that the online catalogue must already be comprehensive – why else would we have it?  The reason so many people have had to invest so much effort in the catalogue just to make it match that starting expectation is because record offices were invented before computers, so we had a lot of catching up to do.  Cataloguing software was introduced to Derbyshire Record Office in 2000, and it soon began to supplement the long-established system of paper catalogues with an online version.  The trouble was, the online catalogue only contained details of new accessions as they arrived – so that, in a record office which had been busily collecting archives since the 1960s, the online version was but the tip of a substantial iceberg.  And the rest of that iceberg, to extend the metaphor, was made of paper.

The paper iceberg drifted this way and that over the succeeding years, its electronic tip growing as more materials arrived at the record office – and as The National Archives project known as a2a (Access To Archives) led to a lot of our larger lists being included.

Then Derbyshire Record Office decided to set about importing all its existing stock of lists into the online catalogue.  That meant that we needed to know which collections had already had been catalogued with a paper list, and which ones were already in our computer system.  If that doesn’t sound complicated, have a look at this flowchart, dreamed up in 2009:


The flowchart is just one of the procedural documents that our staff worked with as they gathered information about what had been done and what remained undone.  Then we made a start on the task of typing up and reformatting thousands of lists.  And I am quite certain we would not be half-way through if not for all the home-based volunteers listed above, and all the hours of work that they have put in.  (I am also certain there are names missing from that roll of honour – so please let me know if yours is one of them!)

Everyone sets tremendous value on their free time, so we really, truly appreciate the contribution of so many people to help us get to this stage.  Once again: thank you.

Lights, camera, action!

Last week a film crew and two presenters from BBC TV’s ‘Restoration Home’ – Dr Kate Williams, and Kieran Long – braved the snow to spend the day here, filming records that tell the story of ‘The Elms’ in North Wingfield.

Our temporary premises at The Creche are much smaller than our own building in New Street, so we let the film crew take over the searchroom for the day, and huddled ourselves in our small office space. It made for a strange work day, but it was nice to see the crew back again – they’re becoming old friends, as they came here last year for the programme on Stoke Hall in Calver.

We’re excited to see the result when the new series of ‘Restoration Home’ is broadcast this summer!

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