I'm just back in the door in Irvine from a research trip to the ScotlandsPeople Centre (www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk/visit-us), which re-opened in Edinburgh yesterday. The last time I was at the centre was on January 27th 2020, some sixteen months ago - but not only that, this was the first time in well over a year that I had been in the city centres of both Glasgow and Edinburgh, thanks to the pandemic. So on many levels, today was a BIG DAY for me. So how did I get on?
First up then, the ScotlandsPeople Centre. When it was recently announced that the centre was to re-open, the condition was that it would be on the basis of four hour slots, and that you would have to pre-pay for your seat, at the rate of £7.50, which I duly did (the full terms and procedures are listed at www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk/visit-us). Those attending will have their arrival and departure times staggered so as to avoid clustering by the entrance for the purposes of social distancing, and so I was booked to arrive at 10.20am, and was to make my way to the Dundas Room entrance via the Archivists Garden.
I was on autopilot when I arrived, and without thinking, I entered the Reid Search Room entrance by mistake, where a bemused archivist told me I really needed to go to the Dundas Room! What I did glean from this conversation, though, is that if you do need access to the archives at the NRS, the Reid Search Room seems to be acting as the reading room venue that you will visit, rather than the Historic Search Room (which is appallingly inaccessible for many at the best of times - so that could be a bonus for some if this is the case!). At the moment genealogists are not allowed to come in to play with the archives, it is mainly for academic and other priorities.
I made my way to the Dundas Room, and was relieved to find that they knew that I had already booked in (thankfully!), and after being signed in I was then led to the terminal where I would be working. There are only 9 stations available for now, with most based on tables by the exterior wall beside the windows, with a fairly large gap between desks. The positioning of my terminal was initially problematic, as my seat was beside a window, with the sun glaring right through at me, but the staff very quickly and kindly pulled the blinds down to block the light, before I melted like the wicked witch from Oz!
Initially I was a little confused with the set up, in that the computer was not switched on, and there were no instructions. A member of staff soon assisted, and it soon became clear that no-one was going to touch the computer other than me, to minimise the potential for cross-infection, should I have been symptomatic. Whoever had sat at my seat yesterday had not logged out of her account, which was loaded with 30 credits, and so I duly did so for her. It's worth noting that if you have credits on your account before going into the centre at Edinburgh, you will see your account tally in the corner when you log in, but you will not actually be using your credits, as you will have unlimited access to the records instead. So your credits cannot be used on site if you don't log out - but it is still worth making sure that you do sign out! At the end of the session I was again guided verbally as to what to do to shut down, so that the staff did not have to touch the terminal. The plan is that the only people who will touch the computers will be those using them, and then those cleaning them. Eminently sensible!
The research session itself went like a dream, with no technical problems encountered. I was unable to print off copies of historic records, and if I needed to have an image rescanned, that would not have been possible for now. What I was particularly grateful for was the fact that the wifi was available, as I needed to double check something I had mistranscribed from FamilySearch, which was soon sorted. Fortunately, in today's session I was carrying out a research task where I had already compiled the bulk of a report for my client from research carried out at home over the last couple of months, it really was the access to the more recent records, not available online, that was my problem in delivering the final project. With today's four hour finale, I resolved the outstanding issues and can now put this one to bed.
So in summary, the booking process (which was initially a bit slow upon launch) worked out well, and the on-site Covid restrictions are cautious but sensible. Masks must be worn throughout a visit, the onsite toilets are accessible, and the staff are as friendly and helpful as ever. Follow the instructions given when you book, and you should be fine!
So the other big thing about today was seeing civilisation again! Those who know me well know how much I absolutely love Glasgow, and that I occasionally visit Edinburgh, and it was great to see both cities absolutely gleaming today. Despite the fact that we are beginning to unlock, the footfall was still massively diminished in both places, but the buzz was there.
The one thing I was particularly delighted to see was the revamped Glasgow Queen Street Station, which looks simply stunning from the outside, and where from the inside you can actually now see George Square, it was a job well down. I'm not sure I saw any bilingual signs there though with Gaelic, but hopefully they will be implemented soon.
And Edinburgh Castle is still there, which is nice!
Just out, Sharing Your Family History Online is on sale at https://bit.ly/SharingFamHist. Tracing Your Scottish Family History on the Internet, at http://bit.ly/ChrisPaton-Scottish2 is also out, as are Tracing Your Irish Family History on the Internet (2nd ed) at http://bit.ly/ChrisPaton-Irish1 and Tracing Your Scottish Ancestry Through Church and State Records at http://bit.ly/ChrisPaton-Scotland1. Further news published daily on The Scottish GENES Facebook page, and on Twitter @genesblog.