An Educational Charity | Charity Reg. No. NIC100280
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Charitable Objectives

Reset, Restart: the Foundation’s Plan for Recovery

We Need Your Support

Included in our annual Guild mailing that was sent in March 2020, there was an enclosed brochure, We Need Your Support, outlining our fundraising objectives for the future.

Given that we now are in a different place than we were when the brochure was published in March, our needs and priorities have changed, and so the plan has changed.

Reset and Restart: the Foundation’s Plan for Recovery

With that in mind, we wish to share with you a summary of our plan for recovery. It is a three-strand approach, with the number one priority being a complete rebuild of the Foundation’s website (Step 1).

Steps 2 and 3 complement the website rebuild: Step 2 is to create our Genealogy Hub and Research Library – ready for when we can reopen; Step 3 will seek to exploit the rich resources in the library by digitising and giving members remote access to them.

Steps 2 and 3 are broadly similar to the aims for the Genealogy Hub outlined in the brochure from March. Thus interested parties can still ‘Buy a Leaf’ which will also support the development of the Genealogy Hub directly. The focus, though, is firmly on the website rebuild as our priority in recovery.

If you feel you can give – or perhaps give again if you have already donated – your help would be greatly appreciated. Click here for more information

Building for the Future – Introduction

The future is unknown but it will be very different from before. We are starting our plan for recovery now with a massive overhaul and rebuild of the website and orientating the Foundation to ensure we are better placed for this new world, and to better serve you – our members.

PRONI is still not opened (though other archives are due to do so soon) and when it does they have indicated that groups will not be able to visit, access to record collections may be limited, and passage through the archive for users may be slow and restricted.

Three-Strand Approach

Faced with this we are re-examining how the Foundation emerges and serves our genealogy community. It is a three-strand approach: significantly improve the website; make our genealogy hub in Kiltonga (when we are open again) as accessible and user-friendly as we can; and digitise and provide remote access for members to treasures from the Foundation’s research library.

Step 1: Rebuilding the Website

The website rebuild will be a complete reimaging: new, flexible and easy to use search functionality for online databases, and more new database content; an enhanced easily-accessed members’ area; space for webinars, online classes, courses, talks and live ‘Q&A’; plus a raft of new books and research resources, new online content, and a safe, interactive space to nurture our online community.

Step 1: Rebuilding the Website – Our Target Fund

This won’t be cheap. We wish to allocate £30,000 to the website redevelopment – we intend that it will be done to the highest specification we can plan and deliver. We are in the process of sourcing £15,000 of finance, but match funding is needed to release it. Already we have received a pledge of £5,000 from a donor. This gives us a head start of £20,000 meaning we only need to raise £10,000 to achieve our goal.

Can you help? With nearly 2,000 members, if each member donated only £25 we could generate something close to £50k. Experience shows not everyone will or can give, but some others will donate much more than that. We know from previous campaigns members can be incredibly generous.

We are starting our campaign by contacting local members by mail. If just half of our local member donated £25+ that alone would get us close to 40% of the £10k. And if the response is encouraging we will roll out the same approach to our members living further afield.

You might ask, why should members help? Because you will be helping us to help you – self-help is at the heart of this. Self-help for the Foundation – we mean to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps; self-help for members – we are investing in making the research resources that we have built up over 65 years as accessible and useful-friendly as we can. In marketing-speak, we intend to ‘sweat our assets’ given that future access to PRONI and other archives is unknown and not within our control.

Your help is vital, if the Foundation is to adapt it must overhaul its online resources. What we have done so successfully in the past – classes, courses, conferences – all depend on people being able to travel, to visit the archives, to come together as groups. We are preparing for a future where a lot of that may not be possible (at least for a while), and by doing so we want to exploit to the full those resources within our control, and give better access to the expertise of our staff and research team.

Ways to Give

Step 1

Donating to the Website Redevelopment Fund

If you believe you can contribute to the website redevelopment as part of our recovery plan you can use the enclosed form or go to:

Step 2

Supporting our Genealogy Hub and Research Suite

Complementing and running concurrently with the website redevelopment will be creating our Genealogy Hub and Research Suite. This will be done in the background as we prepare to reopen. The office in Kiltonga is the best space the Foundation has ever occupied. We have the whole building to ourselves, there is ample parking on site for visitors and members, and we have control of running costs.

In terms of layout it is much better than the previous location in central Belfast. The ground floor has a series of good-sized private offices, plus a reception area and small foyer. The first floor is a large open-plan space in which we are creating our Genealogy Hub – the whole floor will be dedicated to it.

At roughly 1,330 square feet this open-plan format, with excellent natural lighting, will allow us to re-open while easily ensuring social distancing for visitors. For members it will be a very pleasant, peaceful research environment, where genealogists could spend a whole morning, afternoon or full day, if they chose, without interruption and with immediate access to our staff’s knowledge and experience.

The Heart of the Genealogy Hub – Our Research Library

At the heart of the Genealogy Hub will be the library. The Foundation has a very specialised and high quality research library. It was enhanced in the past two years by several significant donations, including some 1,100 items donated by our former trustee, Prof. Richard Clarke. Most recently, the collection has been expanded further by a donation of books and periodicals from trustee Prof. Sir George Bain.

It is no exaggeration to say that the Foundation’s library will be the most valuable publically-accessible library in the North Down and Ards council area. And with plenty of onsite parking, access from a major bus route and only a 20 minute drive to PRONI, when we get back to something close to ‘normal’ the space will be a significant and complementary resource to public archives for our members.

Despite staff being furloughed, volunteers have helped to rebuild the library shelving and started to reshelve the books as we plan for reopening, see our gallery:

‘Buy a Leaf’ – Contributing to the Genealogy Hub

Supporting the development of the Genealogy Hub can be best done through our ‘Buy a Leaf’ programme (see brochure for details). If you are wondering how else you can help, donations of books are welcome. Please contact quoting ‘Library Donation’ if you would like to contribute.

Step 3

Digitise, Digitise, Digitise – Making our Library Collection More Easily Accessible

The third strand of our recovery plan is to begin to digitise many of the treasures of the research library. Members with health concerns, or who need to continue to shield may be reluctant or unable to travel to the Genealogy Hub – locals and those living overseas alike.

We wish to begin to digitise and give wider, remote access to the riches of our library collection by making available many of the unique and out of copyright items in our library as online resources for the benefit of researchers at home and abroad. Given that Step 1 is the priority, currently we do not have the funds to start this work, but later and with your help we can begin building up our digital ‘treasures’ collection.



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Registered with The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland NIC100280