It is hoped that this server will eventually both contain a large amount of useful information of relevance to genealogy and family history in the British Isles, and act as a convenient means of organizing and accessing a very much larger mass of such information that has been collected and is being maintained by various organizations and individuals. The structuring that we have chosen to use is one which we hope will prove adequate to this task as the totality of on-line information of relevance to the genealogy of the British Isles grows and grows, and one which these other individuals and organizations will find useful as they plan their online information repositories. The great power of the World Wide Web is that a user will be able to browse throughout these various collections of information without any great concern for where they are held, or which organization is responsible for maintaining them - however such browsing will be much more convenient if there is a reasonable degree of uniformity of structure and terminology.
The method of structuring that we have adopted is not one that we have arbitrarily invented for ourselves. Rather it is based closely on the method that has been developed and used by the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. This of course is by far the largest genealogy library in existence and one which many genealogists all over the world are familiar with through their use of the microfiche and the CD-ROM versions of the library's catalogue, and of the excellent Research Guides published by the Library.
The principal means of structuring used in this server is therefore by means of what is mainly a four-level hierarchy corresponding to locality. The top level corresponds to the British Isles as a whole, the next level consists of England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. This choice is exactly that made by the Family History Library, and has been motivated by considerations of what major archives exist, and how various important sets of official records are organized, not by any political considerations. (Thus Ireland is the term used to cover the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland - since their official records and their genealogical traditions are inextricably mixed together.)
The third level of the hierarchy corresponds to counties (equivalently the separate islands comprising the Channel Islands), the fourth level corresponds to towns and parishes within such counties. (This Information Service, and most other information sources of relevance to genealogy, use the pre-1974 counties rather than the modern ones.)
Though the intention is that all parishes in a county should be directly reachable from the county page, our convention is for the list of parishes within certain major towns to be listed, indented under the town name on the county page, and also given on the town page, where they serve as additional links to these parish pages. The sets of town parishes that are treated this way are those that are so treated in the Phillimore Atlas and Index of Parish Registers (2nd ed.), Chichester, Phillimore (1995).
In principal, at each of these levels information is then organized by subject. We have chosen to use headings taken from the set of subject headings that the Family History Library catalogue uses for its British Isles information. The idea is to introduce such subject headings only as the need arises; many of these subject headings may never be needed, especially at the lower levels of the hierarchy. Nevertheless, for convenience and future guidance they are all listed below.
The organization scheme involves recording details about a given information source at the level which corresponds to the localities that this information relates to, under the appropriate subject heading. Thus information about the parish registers of Clovelly in Devon would be filed under British Isles: England: Devon: Clovelly - Church Records, while a large set of census records relating not just to England but to England and Wales, say, would be found under British Isles - Census. However, taking advantage of WWW's hypertext faciities, if this latter set of census set of records is actually organized by county, we would also expect there to be reference to, say, the Devon section of the census records under British Isles: England: Devon - Census.
This set of subject headings includes all those those found in the sections of the Family History Library Catalogue relating to the various major regions within the British Isles. (Following the practice in the Library's Research Guides, we have included a few "see under" entries to allow for differences in terminology on the two sides of the Atlantic.) Most of these entries are, we believe, self-explanatory. However if in doubt about the typical usage of a particular subject heading we would recommend checking how it is used in the Family History Library Catalogue.
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