Essex on film

Readers, today’s blog post contains Good News.

Those of you who came to our Discovery Day recently might have seen the films that we were showing in our lecture theatre.

If you had feared that you would never be able to see them again, we are pleased to announce that you can now relive the joy through the magic of YouTube.

First up, a selection of extracts from videos held in the Essex Sound and Video Archive, including morris dancing, the opening of Bradwell power station, a 1950s police video insulting Colchester’s pedestrians, the opening of Lakeside shopping centre, wartime landgirls, people on their holidays at the Essex seaside, and lots more.

You can also visit our YouTube channel to see some of the other videos which were playing on the Discovery Day, including the now famous ‘document production’ video. (It’s better than it sounds, honestly.) Enjoy!

Beyond the tip of the iceberg

We spent a fun morning today with Nick Barratt, Laura Berry and director-cameraman Tamer Asfahani of the Family History Show, a monthly online video podcast, or ‘vodcast’, which showcases interesting topics from the world of genealogy.

Nick outside the ERO

The FHS team came to the ERO to film some of the resources which we have to offer, from our online catalogue, Seax, and the images available on Essex Ancestors, to the original documents which can help with your family history, and some of the ‘treasures’ of the ERO – our most beautiful, interesting and rare documents.

Laura finds out all about Seax and Essex Ancestors from Public Service Team Manager Neil Wiffen

 The Family History Show looks beyond the narrow confines of ‘family history’ strictly defined, to social history, local history, and house history, to build up a fuller picture of what life was like in the past. 

Archivist Chris Lambert shows Laura around a set of poor law records, which can tell fascinating and haunting stories about your ancestors

It’s easy for family history to become an exercise of collecting names and dates, but the truly rewarding element is finding out more about how your ancestors lived. Once you have used birth, marriage and death certificates, parish registers and census returns to find out the names of your ancestors, when they were alive and where they lived, there are so many more questions you can ask to bring history to life.

How did your ancestors make a living? What was life like for children? What happened to you if you lost your job? What did people eat? What sort of accommodation did people live in? How were your ancestors’ lives different from your own?

Answering these questions means delving into other record sets, such as the poor law records the FHS team filmed here today, which may seem daunting at first, but ERO staff are always on hand to help guide you.

Filming some of the ‘treasures’ of the ERO

We love sharing our ‘treasures’ documents, and although we cannot usually produce them to the Searchroom in the same way as most of our documents, you can come and see them for yourself at one of our Discover: Treasures of the Essex Record Office sessions. The next one is on Tuesday 23rd October – see our events page to find out more.


The finished vodcast will be released on the Family History Show site in November, so keep an eye out to find out what Nick and Laura made of the ERO!

Discovery Day

Thankyou to everyone who came to our Discovery Day on Saturday!

Talking to you on the day and reading your comments on our feedback forms it seems like people certainly enjoyed themselves, whether it was attending Nick Barratt’s fantastic talk, getting advice from our expert staff, or going on tours to see how we take care of Essex’s history.

The ERO decorated with Heritage Open Days bunting!

The Friends of Historic Essex bookstall in the local history marketplace 

The ERO Education desk, complete with slates

 Looking at maps for sale

On tour in the Searchroom

On tour in the repositories

Checking out the ERO Treasures!

Dr Nick Barratt, talking about why we still need archives when we’ve got the internet

 In the Conservation Studio 


Demonstrating the leaf caster, which very cleverly fills in holes in paper documents with new paper pulp

One of the fascinating things on show – an enormous seal of an enthroned Elizabeth I

Remember that we are open Monday-Saturday every week for you to come and enjoy this fantastic resource, whether you have a specific research question in mind, or just want to come in to have a look around the Searchroom. Find out how to visit us here.

There’s plenty more to enjoy from the ERO over the coming months as our packed autumn events schedule gets under way, beginning with Discover Maps on Thursday 20 September 2pm-4pm, and the first of our autumn conferences, Essex-on-Sea on Saturday 22 September. Find out about all the great events we’ve got coming up on our events page!

Photos 1-3 Hannah Salisbury; 4-15 Edd Harris

5 days to go!

Just 5 days to go until our Discovery Day!

On Saturday 8th September we are throwing open the doors, so you can come and find out all about what we do, what we keep here, and how we can help you with your research.

One of our main events is a keynote speech from historian and television presenter Dr Nick Barratt, who recently dropped in for a chat. Here he is in the Essex County Council chamber, giving you some top tips on researching your family tree:


Dr Barratt’s talk, ‘Why do we still need archives when we’ve got the internet?’, is at 1.30pm, and entry is free. Places are limited, so guarantee your seat by pre-booking on 01245 244620. See our events page for more details about everything else that’s going on at the Discovery Day and out other great events.

The Discovery Day is part of Heritage Open Days.