How will today’s ‘data protection’ impinge on family historians of the future?

I love the way I can look at the census returns and see my forbears, the way in which I can search for and download my father’s ex-POW Questionnaire  after WWII, (from National Archives) that old Wills are available to me (again, NA) and that I can see that one of my husband’s forbears had a ‘removal order’ against him enforced back in the late 1800s.  All these snippets of information help to build up a picture of my forbears and their lives… but now that virtually everything is ‘bolted down’ and to attempt to find out anything contravenes the data protection legislation… how is anyone going to find out anything in the future?

Plenty of records have been destroyed, I believe!  My husband used to be in the Nottingham City Police and, in slack periods, was asked to go down to the records office and destroy anything that was over 80 years old!!! He said how interesting it was to read some of the papers related to a, then dead, criminal… but he knew he had to consign them to the fire.  I wonder how many records have been lost and destroyed over the years?

My own father, as you’ve seen, was a serving officer in the Manchester City Police… on enquiring about his service record I was told that no records currently exist! He retired in the 1980s and already his service records have been expunged… how sad is that?  The reason this blog was started was to be able to pass along a section of his memoirs relating to his police career… email just kept bouncing back and the Manchester Police Museum volunteer just wasn’t receiving them… however I tried. So I set up the blog so that she could copy and paste the information into a document file and keep it on record. But how many policemen’s careers have been ‘wiped out’ by assiduous record destruction? This must clearly happen everywhere in a variety of professions… and this information is now lost for ever.

Ironically, the records that do survive were from an age when pen and paper were the cutting edge of technology!

Today’s family historians are, at least, aiding in the preservation of their family’s history for posterity and, in no small part, due to the power of the internet. But what happens if that information, so painstakingly gleaned from a variety of sources, is lost or thrown away, even if inadvertently?

Perhaps any online trees that we may have, any personal websites or blogs will eventually be the safest repository for our records… as long as we remember to pass on the account details along with all the passwords!


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