Three years into project, millions of records remain unscanned
Genealogists have criticised an indefinite delay in setting up a Government website that promised direct access to 171 years of family records, calling it “appalling”.
The Government had planned a website that would give free access to 250 million records of births, marriages and deaths in England and Wales from 1837 to the present day.
Currently genealogists must pay a £7 fee and wait ten days to receive a certificate by post.
However, three years into a £16m contract to scan the documents, only 130 million have been digitised and the plans have been put on hold.
The move has angered genealogists. Rob Alexander, director of the Surrey Genealogist records agency, said: “Most family history enthusiasts will treat this news with absolute dismay. It appears to be yet another example of Government getting it wrong when it comes to big contracts.”
Matthew Copus, a genealogist and family historian, agreed: “It is a pity that what could have been a flagship service has not been created, due, it appears, to incompetence and penny-pinching,” he said.
He also added that the records were also not as easy to obtain as they had been as the website was built as a replacement to the defunct Family Records Centre (FRC), which had let people collect paper certificates from various centres.
“Many genealogists and family historians are upset that not only has the FRC been closed – earlier than was planned – but the old paper indexes have been completely withdrawn," he said.
“This was not meant to happen until new, improved indexes were available, something which now seems a very distant prospect.”
The Identity and Passport Service (IPS) moved to reassure people that this was not the case. A representative for the agency said: “We remain committed to delivering the project to digitise births, deaths and marriage records.”
"The IPS and the General Records Office are now undertaking a comprehensive review of the digitisation programme to determine the most appropriate means of realising the benefits of the programme."
The representative could not, however, say when the project would be completed or who would pay for the rest of it.
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