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Find out about local archives - 2015

Why important

Family and local history are popular reasons for visiting councils websites (up to nearly 3% in 2014). Here we test how well they serve the needs of a first-time user of the local archive service.

Date of assessment


All county councils (27 councils in all). Note: this service is also provided by single-tier councils, but not tested in this survey in the interests of maintaining survey balance.


Most councils in this small sample handle this task well, with 78% achieving our standard. Sometimes the information is a little fragmented and missing obvious details (eg copying facilities).

Find your council report

Check ‘coverage’ to see if your council has been surveyed. Go to councils page and select your council. Look for link to task report under 2017-18 results

Headline results


Achieved standard

The standard
  • At least 7 questions from 11 answered 'Yes'
  • Question Q70 must be answered 'Yes'
  • Question Q79 must be 'No' (content must not be out of date)
  • Promotion of task rated satisfactory or very good
  • Customer journey rated satisfactory or very good


Log in to view question set or View sample question set from 2016-17 (pdf)

Task report

Good practice

Finding the task

  • Find the task by entering council name’ family history into Google (or other search engine).
  • Provide a direct link from the family history, or libraries and archives, landing page to a brief service description that tells visitors of the facilities on offer from the local archives service.
  • Remember that first-time visitors will need to have good information about public and private transport to the location.
  • Be proactive in promoting the services on offer.
  • Take visitors to the same page from any site search result or A to Z entry.
  • In two-tier areas, signpost the task from the appropriate district council sites.

Completing the task

  • Ensure that the information provided about the facilities is comprehensive (e.g. copying facilities, search services, document ordering, opening times).
  • Provide links to online guidance and sources for those researching family history (e.g. National Archives website).
  • Make a clear statement about whether the service is free. If not free, be clear about any charges.

Poor practice

  • The site makes no mention of any charges, or whether the services are free.
  • Far too much information about the facilities is contained in ‘pdfs’.
  • Relevant information in libraries, archives and records offices pages is not linked together and so users may access only a portion of information and services provided, depending where they land.

Reviewer's tip

I was surprised to find little explanation of the copying facilities, and sometimes family history information was not linked up with ordering copy certificates. I felt that councils could make it clearer how their own archives and collections fitted in with national sources and online sources and where someone carrying out research should start.

Sites that we recommend

Dorset CC

Really wonderful set of pages for the Dorset History Centre. Very easy to read and navigate with lots of good advice and links.

Gloucestershire CC

Excellent service – clear, comprehensive information presented in a colourful and engaging way. There are always minor improvements that could be made to navigation – and navigation in through the A to Z and internal search – but excellent overall.

Further information

We assessed this task primarily using the search via Google.



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