In the August 16 newsletter, I wrote about an announcement from the General Register Office (GRO) of the United Kingdom declaring the suspension of a major effort: the £16 Million (roughly $30 Million US Dollars) project to digitize 250 million records of births, marriages, and deaths in England and Wales from 1837 to the present day. Now there may be a ray of hope of the project being resurrected.
The Federation of Family History Societies (FFHS) sent a petition protesting the collapse of the project and a demand for it to be restarted. The petition closed on July 26th, and the FFHS has just recedived the following response:
The General Register Office (GRO) has a statutory obligation to make index data for registration records publicly available. Since the closure of the Family Records Centre in March 2008, it has provided copies of the indexesin microfiche format at several libraries and record offices across Englandand Wales. Many people who would previously have had to visit London to view the indexes are now able to do so much closer to home. Further details onwhere to search the full range of GRO indexes from 1837 to 2008 can be found at http://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/research/groindexes/holders_of_the_gro_indexes.asp
GRO recognises that the creation of a publicly-accessible online index will be of even greater value to many family historians. GRO was transferred on 1 April 2008 from the Office for National Statistics to the Identity and Passport Service (IPS). IPS has confirmed that the creation of an accessible online index is a commitment which GRO will continue to work towards.
A necessary pre-requisite is that all the registration records from 1837 must be created in a digitised format. The project to achieve this has encountered delays, with about half the records currently digitised. IPS is investigating a new project to complete the work and to address the requirement for an online index. At this stage options for the best method of implementation are being reviewed, and new timescales will be announced as soon as decisions based on the outcome of the review can be taken.