Thursday, August 1, 2013

Good Deed volunteer team reaches target after three years of dedicated work


1st August 2013

From the beginning of August 2013 iMuseum website researchers will benefit from the release of data for over 74,000 registered deeds, spanning 1847 to 1910.  The content has been prepared by a faithful and enthusiastic band of Manx Museum volunteers, working in the Manx National Heritage Library and Archives.

Manx National Heritage manages registered deeds from before 1690 until December 1910.   Historically, access was provided by use of unwieldy manual indexes arranged by parish which did not enable easy identification of relevant documents.  

As a strand of the iMuseum project, online searching now transforms access to these versatile resources.  The deeds series contain far more than conveyances and mortgages: powers of attorney, memorials of wills, appointments of trustees and early marriage contracts are examples of other recorded deeds - their relevance going far beyond property transactions to family, social and economic history.

The key to providing details of individual deeds for the 1847 to 1910 period lay in seventeen bulky registers known as requisition books which Deeds Registry staff used to receive and record the individual deeds.  This system started in 1847 as a result of a statute that year entitled ‘An Act to render more effectual the Registering and Recording of all Deeds, Conveyances, Wills and other Instruments…’.

Coordinated by MNH Archivist, Wendy Thirkettle, a team of over 25 volunteers from the Friends of MNH, other agencies and individuals were set to work.  Spreadsheets were used to amass content extracted from the requisition books; secondly, an additional deed number had to be identified by methodically searching the actual deeds.  This second task lengthened the project considerably but had the added benefit of enabling spellings and queries to be checked against the documents, thereby improving accuracy of the transcriptions.

The team tackled the work in three phases beginning with 1880-1910 deeds.  This helped make matters less daunting and enabled progress to be celebrated.  Deeds for the final 1847-1859 phase became accessible on the iMuseum website on 30 July due to the work of MNH Documentation Officer Jude Dicken.  This landmark is cause for due recognition and appreciation. 

Wendy Thirkettle said of the volunteers,
“The help of the Good Deed team who have finished this spreadsheet inputting has been extraordinary.  The work has been a marathon rather than a sprint but a marathon conducted with great enthusiasm and good humour, even when tackling suspect handwriting and place and surname spelling queries.

She continued,
Previously, searches were made by grantor only meaning that unless you knew who was conveying property your search might easily become unstuck.  Now you can tap in the name of the person acquiring property and all being well your search will get a hit.  Bear in mind however that full details of the property were not always given in the requisition book – it might simply have been written up as ‘dwelling house in town of Douglas’ or ‘parcel of land in the parish of Lezayre’ – patience is still required.”

The website www.imuseum.im provides details of the deed reference number; once known the actual deed can be consulted in the Reading Room at the Manx Museum.  

Additional work has proceeding smoothly, with another part of the Good Deed team preparing the actual deeds for digital capture.  Heading back in time from 1910 they are currently in the era before 1847 when the deeds were stored folded in bundles.   Based in a bijou workspace appropriately named ‘the Snug’ they are well on the way to completing one series of deeds spanning 1723-1846, unfolding and carefully sub-numbering these precious documents.

Wendy explains,
“There is much still to do in preparing both the documents for digitisation and the pre 1847 deed data for release on the iMuseum in the coming months.  However the milestone of releasing 1847-1910 data brings the contribution of the requisition book Good Deed team members to a natural close.  Within the museum, appreciation has been expressed in various ways; this publicity is a means of further acknowledging our immense gratitude to this special band of people.”

Searches can be made at www.imuseum.im by clicking on Explore Family History and then the Registered Deeds function or by a quick search.

For further information, please contact:
Wendy Thirkettle, MNH Archivist
Email: Wendy.Thirkettle@mnh.gov.im  
Tel: 01624 648041

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