Thursday, November 1, 2018

A Day at the Microfilm Reader

I was delighted earlier this year when I  found an online index listing the daily contents of the Haddingtonshire Courier (now the East Lothian Courier) from October 1859 up to December 1902. The newspaper collection on microfilm  is housed in the Local History area of the John Gray Centre in Haddington, East Lothian, Scotland.

Now it just so happens that Mr GeniAus has Gowans and Sibbald ancestors who were in the Haddington area during that period so I checked the index and found more than 30 reference to family members. I saved these on a spreadsheet. As we were planning a trip to the UK I added Haddington to our itinerary. Once I had a date I emailed the John Gray Centre and booked a microfilm reader for the day.

I was most impressed when Mr GeniAus dropped me off at the Centre and went to find a parking spot. When we visited a number of years ago the local studies collection was stored in an inadequate area in a loft. The new  John Gray Centre houses the local library and archives in a lovely light filled environment.

When I marched up to the reception I was given a right, royal welcome. Bill Wilson, Local History Officer,  and his staff settled me at a microfilm reader and organised  retrieval of the films I needed. Robert joined me and we bunkered down for a morning of research.

GeniAus at work

Local studies collection
 While I played with the microfilms and downloaded the newspaper articles onto a thumb drive  Mr GeniAus browsed the book collection looking for references to his ancestors.  Bill offered us a behind the scenes tour of the archives but I declined as I wanted to complete my task. Mr GeniAus accepted Bill's offer and found the tour very interesting.

Behind the scenes in the John Gray Centre 

An innovative display highlighting local identities
 When I announced on Facebook that I was headed to Edinburgh and Haddington my fellow geneablogger, John Laws, who lives in the neighbourhood suggested we meet up. Knowing that we would need a lunch break we made a date to meet John at a local cafe, The Loft

It was lovely to meet John in the flesh, through blogging and genealogy we had been online friends for several years.  John is kept busy with a surname study for the Laws (and variants) name. He blogs about it here at The Laws Family Register.

Meeting up with genimate, John Laws
 After our break we returned to the John Gray Centre so I could complete my task. My head was swimming after spending several hours at the microfilm reader so I was pleased to set off towards our next stop at Galashiels.

I was not so pleased when, that evening, I discovered that I had left my thumb drive containing all my saved images in the microfilm reader. Mr GeniAus displayed great restraint the next morning when we had to trace our steps to  collect my thumb drive.

I cannot thank enough Bill Wilson and the staff at John Gray Centre  who made us so welcome. I owe a debt of gratitude to the team of volunteers who have created such a valuable resource in the newspaper index.

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