10 family history websites to watch in 2018

By Rosemary Collins, 10 January 2018 - 5:09pm

Online genealogist Jonathan Scott, author of The Family History Web Directory, looks into his crystal ball to reveal the biggest record releases and other events coming up in the next 12 months

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The British Red Cross will be launching a new collections database in early 2018 (Credit: The Print Collector/ Print Collector/ Getty Images)

This is the fifth year that I’ve written Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine’s annual preview of the year ahead, and it’s always a struggle to decide what to cover in the space available.

Our 2018 article is no exception.

Next year the National Health Service turns 70, while it’s 100 years since the creation of the Royal Air Force and the end of the First World War.

These three major anniversaries are generating projects online and on the ground.

The RAF Museum, for example, is having a major reorganisation at its London headquarters ahead of the centenary, and its website will soon have a brand new forum for people to share their 
RAF stories and memories.

We have lots of interesting news from archives, including county record offices, specialist collections and national repositories.

We’ve also checked the pulses of the leading commercial players.

As usual the likes of Ancestry, MyHeritage, Findmypast and TheGenealogist have given us a flavour of their plans, while the Society of Genealogists is on the cusp of rolling out a hugely expanded members’ section.

To find out what the major family history websites have in store in 2018, check out the full version of this article in our latest issue, on sale now

Trying to document the internet is like trying to paint the Forth Bridge, and I’m sure that you have your own recommendations of online resources or local projects that more people should know about.

Perhaps you’re actually working on one yourself.

If you want your website to be considered for our next annual survey, or the monthly Best Websites column, tweet me @thejonoscott or contact the magazine.

1. British Army Ancestors


Launched in autumn 2017, this new database of 11.5 million British Army records enables you to search for a photo of your ancestor or upload your own.

Creator Paul Nixon hopes the site will become a focal point for anyone searching for an image of an army ancestor.

It’s free to use and you can also click on links that appear on each result to download a medal card, service record or further information from paid sites such as Findmypast and The National Archives.

The site covers 1850–1920 but Paul hopes to extend this as new records become available.

2. British Red Cross

The British Red Cross will be launching a new collections database in early 2018.

This will include an improved browser that enables you to search historic Red Cross museum and archive records.

The scope of content is expected to expand gradually leading up to the British Red Cross’s 150th anniversary in 2020, and it will sit alongside the current First World War volunteers database.

3. International Bomber Command Centre

The National Archives

If you’re researching an ancestor who served with Bomber Command, you should bookmark this website.

As well as details of the centre in Lincoln, it’s home to a free database of 57,871 individuals who lost their lives during the Second World War.

From the end of January 2018 a new Digital Archive will go live, with digitised letters, diaries, photos and service documents, as well as oral and video interviews with hundreds of people involved.

You’re also invited to share any ephemera from your own research.

4. Mining Durham's Hidden Depths

Staff and volunteers at Durham Record Office have finished cataloguing the collection of the Durham Miners’ Association, now available online.

It currently contains 225,164 names and is continuing to grow.

The office’s online shop is also being expanded.

5. The National Archives

The National Archives

The National Archives’ (TNA’s) plans include improving the presentation of search results at the online catalogue.

The catalogue will also be bolstered with details of collections newly accessioned by UK archives in 2017.

Over the past year TNA published details of 1,964 new accessions, and expects a similar number in 2018.

Meanwhile a TNA project to catalogue photographs in the COPY 1 record series (1862–1882) will be completed in 2018.

There will also be new research guides (eg canals) and improvements to existing guides – the gay, lesbian and bisexual history guide, for example, will incorporate trans history.

Spokesperson Harriet Craig says: “The next addition to our digitised collections will be to the ADM 363 series, which are the Continuous Service Record Cards of navy personnel and include a list of what ships they served on and the occupations they had while aboard.

"The cards of an additional 15,000 people are being digitised and will be available to view online soon.”

6. NHS at 70: From Cradle to Grave

The Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine at the University of Manchester has recently announced a £785,000 project to mark the NHS’s 70th birthday, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The primary focus is gathering testimony, making films and recording memories of the first patients and employees for a major new social history exhibition.

There will also be a new website where users can record and share their own memories of the NHS.


In 2018 the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland will link a range of digitised images to its existing online catalogue, for example the Education Commissioner’s Grant Aid Applications, which provide information on supplies and the building of new schools from 1832 to 1889.

The 5,774 applications include details of teachers, salaries and dates of appointment.

Some photographic collections, such as those from the Allison and Cooper photographic studios currently available through Flickr, will become available via the catalogue.

And future releases include digitised copies of Tithe Applotment books (1823– 1837) for the six northern counties of Ireland.

These are full-colour, high-quality copies that have been photographed from the original manuscript documents.

8. RAF Museum

The RAF Museum is undergoing a multi-million-pound transformation.

Part funded by awards from the Heritage Lottery Fund, this includes two new exhibitions, a new visitor centre and a restaurant.

There will also be a new website, where people can contribute their memories and images.

Community engagement officer Jess Boydon says: “RAF Stories is story- and memoir-based.

"It records historical and contemporary narratives to create a rich media resource.

"This narrative resource will animate the timeline of the RAF as it moves towards and beyond its centenary year.”

Users will be encouraged to create stories, using the RAF Stories mobile app, which will then be saved back to the new website.

Meanwhile the Collections team has an ongoing programme of digitisation, and you can explore various datasets via the existing StoryVault website.

9. Scottish Military Research Group


The main focus of the group in 2018 is a new website.

Chairperson David McNay says that this will combine data already collected about war memorials and military burials with other research, with the ultimate aim of building a database of Scottish casualties.

In addition one member is revising the Roll of Honour for the city of Glasgow by adding names omitted from the original publication.

10. Society of Genealogists

The society has just soft-launched an enhanced members’ area, which will be expanded as 2018 progresses. 

In addition to the existing digital datasets, books and collections, the members’ area includes the new community hub (replacing the RootsWeb members’ mailing list); a Learning Zone with online tutorials, record guides, quick tips and research aids; and forthcoming courses, members’ offers and quick links.

Genealogist Else Churchill says: “New tutorials and courses will be uploaded regularly during the coming year.”

Else also reveals that the society will be collaborating with a partner to bring other new record features to the site.


This is an extract from '50 Websites to Watch in 2018', the lead article in Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine January 2018

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