One of the most frustrating parts of following up on research found on the Internet is the lack of proper documentation. One very important area which affects your Irish research is The National Archives, Kew (TNA), reference numbers. This amazing archive outside of London houses over 11 million governmental and public records, comprising one of the largest archival collections in the world. These include records which affects scores of Irish and Irish immigrant families.
The Importance of The National Archives, Kew References
In the case of the TNA collections, the problem sometimes isn’t the lack of records but too many records! Often researchers have spent years in these collections but they fail to document where an important find was located. Fortunately, some databases on TNA website can bring up the reference through a quick search. For unindexed sources, this remains a problem.
A reference such as WO97 may look strange to the lay person; yet to seasoned researchers, they automatically know WO means “War Office” and the 97 is the classification within the WO for the Chelsea Pensioners’ Service Records for the British Army solders (not officers) pensioning out of the Army. This collection alone document tens of thousands of Irish born soldiers. So for those familiar with the records, a reference to WO97 is an automatic recognition point. For researchers less familiar with the records, it provides them with a starting place from which to explore a vast array of British Army records.
Libraries Worldwide use the TNA Record Classifications
Because TNA references are so important, libraries and archives around the world with copies of TNA microfilm will cite TNA references along with their own. TNA website has a dedicated page specifically to citation of documents as Citing Documents in the National Archives. There you will find guidelines to properly cite your findings.
As family historians, we typically want to share our research with others. To avoid duplication of efforts and erroneous conclusions, we need to make sure we carefully and professionally document our findings, statements, logic and conclusions.