The project to digitize registration records in England and Wales
started in 2005 when Siemens IT Solutions was awarded a three-year
contract to undertake the work as part of the Digitalisation of Vital
Events (DoVE) Project. Processing of the records was done in India.
The accuracy of the data captured contractually had to be 99.5%.
Contract Milestones * Go live on microfilm scanning: 31 October 2005 *
historic births completed: 12 June 2006 * Historic deaths completed:
31 October 2006 * Modern births completed: 31 May 2007 * Modern deaths
completed: 30 September 2007 * Historic marriages completed: 31
December 2007 * Modern marriages completed: 31 May 2008 * Still birth
records completed: 31 May 2008
This timetable slipped and then Siemens pulled out because of
"insurmountable technical difficulties" which made the contract
unprofitable. There was speculation that the source microfilms given
to Siemens by GRO were of insufficient quality to digitise (GRO keeps
copies of information held in original form by local authorities - why
is this not centralised??). Although it was also said that Siemens did
not use sufficiently advanced equipment to cope with the records.
In November 2009, Phil Woolas, then Minister of
State, confirmed that the DoVE project had been closed after
digitisation of birth records up to 1934 and death records up to 1957.
The total project cost was £8.33 million.
The 130 million + records that were digitised then formed part of
Eagle, which is used within the GRO to fulfil requests for
certificates from the general public. However there were problems with
the system and on many occasions the staff had to complete the
requests by hand.
Magpie was intended to make the indexes available online to the
public, but this was not implemented. Instead, following a lengthy
review of options, a new project, called the Digitisation and Indexing
(D&I) Project, was initiated.
The D&I Project was planned to: complete the digitisation of birth,
marriage and death records; create an online index to those records;
and improve the certificate ordering process. This project was
suspended in September 2010 pending the outcome a Comprehensive
Spending Review. In August 2012 it was announced that "there are no
current plans to resume this work". The option was left open to review
the situation at a later date.
Compare this with Scotland, where all records are indexed online up to 2011
via www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk, and where we can go into any centre
hosting the ScotlandsPeople Centre computer system and gain unlimited
access virtually to the present day to additional indexes and
digitised images of the original returns.
I saw one interesting suggestion: "push for a change in the law that
would allow the historical civil registers (ie. those more than 100
years old) to be transferred from the IPS to the National Archives.
The National Archives could then in turn licence the information to
third parties such as Ancestry and FindMyPast, much in the way that
they have already done with the censuses. Commercial companies would
then have the responsibility of scanning, indexing and transcribing
the information and providing the website solution, and they would
charge fees to cover their costs (and their profit margin). The IPS
could then concentrate on providing a contemporary civil registration
service and be free of the burden of issuing historical certificates;
the commercial companies would have another opportunity to expand
their business; family historians would gain instant access to a
wealth of data at considerably lower unit cost; the taxpayers would
not be subsidising a few to indulge in an expensive hobby; and the
government would be rid of yet another hassle."