We got a little excited when November started and we realized that Durham Records Online has been operating for 15 years! This site began a “test run” in October 2003 and officially launched on 7 Nov 2003, with 3 partners offering transcriptions of parish records and the 1841, 1851, and 1861 census, all focused on Easington district and slightly beyond. We don’t actually know how many records we had at the time, but we estimate we had around 700,000 “instances” of people in the database (in other words, the same person might appear in a baptism, marriage, burial, and 3 censuses, totaling 6 instances). We had no idea whether or not there would be interest in our offerings, so we were thrilled to have 18 customers during our test month and 83 more in our first official month.
Over the next few years, we added collections from other transcribers, put people to work making new transcriptions, and expanded into Northumberland and a little bit of Yorkshire. Today our database contains just over 9 million “instances” of names, and just over 3.6 million records (a census household is counted as a single record). We have over 25,600 customers and have received thousands of lovely emails praising the site’s content, search functions, and customer support. We are particularly proud of our ability to respond quickly to customer suggestions, implementing new ways to search the records and connect with other researchers. On the data front, we plan to continue expanding into Northumberland, filling the gaps in our County Durham collection, and adding the details that are missing from our original set of Easington-district parish records.
We are grateful to all of our transcribers, who work hard to decipher faded, illegible handwriting with confusingly-spelled names, and we are grateful to our customers who continue to purchase our efforts and delight us with tales of finding long-lost relatives or ancestors, and of solving old mysteries.