Our Ministry of Defence/Restore Records Management set-up caused a stir, and some long queues, at the recent RootsTech family history conference held at ExCel in London.
At this busy event, RootsTech offered more than 150 talks on subjects covering how to trace your family history, using DNA, ethical dilemmas and ways of telling the ten best stories of your life. And stories to feature in that top ten would surely be those of loved ones who served in the armed forces during the Second World War – and that’s exactly what people were queuing for at our large MoD/Restore stand…
As a joint project, we were running a real-time facility for visitors to unlock history and reveal some of the adventures, actions and feelings their loved ones experienced. It worked like this.
· Armed with a death certificate, visitors asked our Restore operatives to search through the archive database for their deceased relative’s service record
· Once located, a completed order form was sent to our modern storage facility where a Restore employee would confirm its location on our management system, then go to retrieve the paper record from one of the 1.8m archive boxes we look after for the MoD
· The documents were scanned, quality checked and sent back to the stand at RootsTech and delivered into the hands of happy customers – sometimes a whole one and a half hours more quickly than promised.
Over the course of the event, we made 1,500 searches and retrieved and printed 160 full records. This event was a great, and rare, opportunity for us here at Restore to see people’s reactions when they receive personal documentation to examine, digest and keep. Some of their faces we shall never forget!
What people said
“My dad’s been dead for 25 years. My mum’s dead. I’ve got no other way of finding anything out about him now.”
“To have my grandpa’s service record is amazing!”
“This is what brings our work to life. We have millions of records and behind every service record is a real person, with a real story… To be able to fill in gaps in family history is a real privilege.”
Kathy Barnes, Chief Executive Officer, Defence Business Services