Last night I ended up sick in my hotel room with fever, chills, nausea, and all that fun stuff. I slept half the day away, and after finally getting out of bed at noon, I decided that I would venture to the Tate Museum. I have some research to do there on a couple of twentieth century people. I knew that an appointment was necessary, but I hoped I could get in today, or at least tomorrow. The good news was: they were open; the bad news: no appointments today; the really bad news: it takes two to three months to get an appointment. Scratch off the Tate for this visit, and reschedule for next year’s trip. I shall arrange for it in September, just to be certain I can get in. Moral of the story: don’t assume. Clearly, when they said “advance appointment” the emphasis was on advance.
So now I ventured forth to the Society of Genealogists (SOG). SOG is the oldest genealogical society in the U.K., having celebrated its centenary just two years ago. The library occupies a modest building near Barbican. Their holdings include a number of published histories, parish registers, historical journals, and more. The collection includes not only U.K. sources, but resources for America, Australia, Canada, and more.
In addition to the large selection of published works, SOG holds a number of manuscript collections. The website includes some finding aids (in addition to the online catalog) to help you gain access to the materials. For example, the Surname Document Index contains a list of surnames included in many manuscript papers. There is also an index to Pedigree charts in the Society’s collections. In the library itself, there are a number of additional card catalogues/indexes to help you access materials in the collection, such as the Bernau index to miscellaneous chancery, exchequer, and other 17th- and 18th- century resources.
The Society operates a minimal research and copy service, but it is not equipped to do extensive formal research. It can check card indexes and indexed books for names, but cannot do more than that. If you need more extensive research done, you can hire a professional to do the research for you (check the Association of Professional Genealogists website for a list of professional researchers in the U.K.).
A number of the Society’s indexes and other materials are available online. Some are available on the Society’s website (for members only). Others are available through a partnership on the FindMyPast website. Among the latter is the extremely valuable Boyd’s Marriage Index.
One of the biggest activities they have each year is the annual Family History Show. The Society held its first show at the Royal Horticultural Hall in 1993. For the past several years it has been held in conjunction with the Who Do You Think You Are Live! show. I attended for the first time in 2004, and it is interesting to see how it has grown in the intervening decade.
The Society is about to launch a new website with new benefits and features. It was hoped that it would be live for WDYDYAL last week, but some last-minute bugs prevented the launch. I have it on good authority that it shall go live any day now, so keep checking back to see what they have up their sleeve.