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Archiver > ESSEX-UK > 2009-07 > 1246490819

From: "Sally-Ann Jay" <>
Subject: Re: [Ess] ERO Notes: on behalf of Sally-Ann Jay
Date: Thu, 2 Jul 2009 00:26:59 +0100
References: <>
In-Reply-To: <>

Thank you very much Mike for your kind offer and technical expertise. And
thank you to everyone here, whose advice I shamelessly plagiarised - sorry,
cut and pasted - to produce these notes. Please note therefore that "I" in
the text is not me!



-----Original Message-----
From: [mailto:]
On Behalf Of Mike Fry
Sent: 02 July 2009 00:16
Subject: [Ess] ERO Notes: on behalf of Sally-Ann Jay

I'm posting these on behalf of Sally-Ann. I doubt that her formatting
will survive the conversion to plain text, but here goes.

Essex Record Office Notes

Wharf Road
Essex CM2 6YT
Tel: 01245 244644

Opening times:
Mon: 9am - 8.30pm
Tues to Thurs: 9am – 5pm
Fri & Sat: 9am to 4pm
They do have some occasional days when they close so check before you go.

The ERO is a large white building right at the end of Wharf Road. There
is a very large pay and display car park right in front of it. It's
about £5 for the whole day. You need plenty of change for the machine.

Reception, and the snack/lunch area is downstairs. So is the Essex FHS
room (open Weds 1-4pm and Thurs 10-1pm & second Mon of the month 6-8pm).
Website: The ERO search
room is on the first floor.

Take a driving licence so that you can be given a "CARN" reader's pass -
you won't get in without one! They'll issue it on the spot for you
though at the main reception desk by the entrance. Ask for one before
you go upstairs to the search room. Keep it they are valid for 3 years
and you can use it to gain access to most of the country's record offices.

Go upstairs, and look for a small door in the left-hand wall. It's the
locker room; put your bits and bobs in here, then go back to the window
in the wall opposite the top of the stairs, tell the lady at the window
that you're a beginner, and ask if a member of staff can quickly show
you the ropes - you'll be very pleasantly surprised at Essex RO, and
your guide will tailor the intro to your area of interest, in terms of
source material. "Don't be afraid to ask": The staff at the ERO (in
common with all the staff at the various record offices I have ever been
to) are enormously welcoming, helpful and approachable. Simple things,
like the mechanics of loading up a microfilm reader, can be a bit
daunting, but they will be very happy to assist. It's their job!
You won't find it all on your first day - after several years of
visiting I still sometimes find new resources I didn't know about
before! They have the full burial index as far as it has been done in
the Essex FHS room.

Take a woolly as the air-con is sometimes turned up a bit high.

No pens - they do sell pencils downstairs if you forget yours; you’ll
need plenty.
No briefcases or any bags that are not transparent.
Laptops are not restricted; cameras may be used but you must have the
camera inspected and approved on the day and pay a fee, of approximately
£20. (Some record offices won't allow laptops, some won't allow cameras,
some won't allow either, some allow both, some charge for using your own
camera, some don't. They may only have limited power sockets available.
Check first)

"Be prepared". Make sure you have a very clear idea of what you are
looking for. Have a clear "wish list" of records you are looking for,
and make sure you take as much information as you can (on a laptop or on
paper) to refer to. There is nothing worse than coming across a name
that you weren't looking for in a parish register that rings loads of
bells but you can't quite remember where it fits in to your tree!

If you need to order original docs from the stores, bear in mind that
they take some time to arrive, so order first and then browse the
bookshelves while you're waiting - that makes best use of your day; use
that time to work out where things are, eg the parish registers.

Start with the most recent records you want to check and work backwards.
It'll help you get used to the handwriting. Don't start with the
earliest ones and work forwards. If you come across a name, place or
occupation you can't read, don't be afraid to ask either.

Once you've ordered, there will be a little while before it appears -
20-30 mins, and there's a scrolling display above the search room doors
on which your name will eventually appear when it's ready. When you go
to collect an ordered doc, tell the person behind the weighing scales
that it's your first time.

Parish microfiche, and anything else that is a copy, doesn't have to be
ordered from the stores; this sort of thing is readily available, with
finding aids, in freely accessible filing cabinets next to several banks
of fiche and film readers. This would cover the usual stuff like parish
registers, census records, and a lot besides. You only need to order an
original doc ie: anything that hasn't been copied, such as wills, estate
papers, court records.

Looking takes time. Each parish register will be split over several
fiche, as each one can only hold roughly a couple of dozen page images.
If for example you were to look in one known parish at Essex Record
Office for a single event that you knew took place in a certain year, it
would probably take 10 or 15 mins in all: find the fiche for that parish
in the drawers, find the correct fiche in the series by trial and error
(they are all headed with their contents, such as 'Great Bottom baptisms
1812-1833' or whatever, but that title might still appear identically on
several fiche, all making up one single register), and then go through
that fiche for the entry. And that's if the entry exists to be found!
What if they got baptised at home because they weren't expected to
survive, or at another parish because the vicar was drunk?

SEAX is exactly the same online as it is on the computers in the
searchroom, and you need to use SEAX to order original docs. Therefore,
getting familiar with it at home will be a great advantage. The ordering
facility does appear to be available online at home as well, but it
won't work as you can only order stuff once you've been registered as
present in the searchroom by signing in at the upstairs door. You also
have to log on to the computers in the searchroom using the number on
your CARN ticket. Some of their PCs are frustratingly slow to boot up
first thing in the morning (10 mins?), so try to find one that has
already been kick-started! Things used to be fine until they 'upgraded'
to Windows XP a few years ago!

I often search at home first, on a set of wild cards related to my
latest field of interest, sift through the results, and note down the
ref. numbers of any docs that look interesting enough to order at the
record office. That greatly cuts down the amount of wasted time in the
searchroom on the day, as I only need to search SEAX for the specific
doc refs one by one (by entering each in the entry box at the top right
of the screen, not in the main search box), and order them. I think you
can order about 5 items at a time; as you return them your allowance
gets restored and you can order more.

There are no catering facilities onsite - just coffee and snack
machines. A sandwich van usually pulls up around 10 or 11am; its arrival
will be announced over the loudspeaker - but don't dawdle or you'll miss
it! You can eat your sandwiches at tables downstairs. And you can't get
out of the searchroom without your CARN ticket, which means that you
cannot have any original docs on your desk - your card is held whilst
you have them and returned when you return them. You could buy some
sarnies on the way in. The town centre is perhaps a 10 min walk away if
you prefer a hot meal and there is a pub at the beginning of Wharf Road.


Mike Fry
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