Winner of the 2018 Archive Volunteering Award

‘Ancestors at Sea’, Lancashire Archives’ project to engage new volunteersto create a free, online name-rich index of maritime records, has won theprestigious national Archive Volunteering Award for 2018.

ARA AwardsLogo RGBLancashire Archives wins prestigious 2018 Archive Volunteering Award

Runners-up: Unilever Plc, Worcestershire, Chinese Information and Advice Centre (London), Bath, Peterborough and Tameside

13 August 2018

‘Ancestors at Sea’, Lancashire Archives’ project to engage new volunteers to create a free, online name-rich index of maritime records, has won the prestigious national Archive Volunteering Award for 2018. Sponsored by the Archives and Records Association (UK & Ireland) and sector partners, this annual award recognises outstanding work involving volunteers in an archive and records service.

’Clear Winner’
The judges voted ‘Ancestors at Sea’ the clear winner. The project began in February 2017 and concluded in April 2018. The new online name index that it generated covers the period 1863-1914 and includes crew lists for international and coastal trading ships and fishing vessels registered at the Lancashire ports of Preston, Fleetwood and Lancaster.

The project was ambitious in its scope and aims, and included the young and economically inactive and older people. The varied roles filled by the volunteers included transcribing text, creating databases, digitising, research, conservation tasks and public presentations.

The judges said:

“’Ancestors at Sea’ was the clear winner in an outstanding field. The new index gives details of over 70,000 seamen from Lancashire, the UK and Ireland and includes a significant number of European and international sailors, too. This is a first-class example of a local project with wider national and international relevance that could not have taken place without the strong support of partners and the commitment of the 17 volunteers that took part, generously giving over 2,300 hours of their time. We were particularly impressed that the volunteers were given challenging roles, for example working on a large number of documents and many with difficult handwriting, as well as being trained (and well managed) by the professional staff at Lancashire Archives.”

The judges also commended the partners involved in ‘Ancestors at Sea’, the Federation of Family History Societies and the Lancashire Family History and Heraldry Society.


The winning volunteers will receive their award later in the year in Lancashire, in the run-up to the launch of the annual, national Explore Your Archive campaign.

ARA’s Chair, Karl Magee, said:

“Archives in the public sector depend on skilled and dedicated professional staff as well as volunteers for their upkeep, transcription, cataloguing and accessibility. I am delighted that the project leaders in Lancashire thought through the drivers for success in such detail, including effective project management, key preventive conservation work on the records and improved storage and organisation of the records themselves. And it is particularly pleasing to see how projects like ‘Ancestors at Sea’ also help stimulate volunteers, impact positively on their quality of life, and generate enthusiasm to do the ‘next’ project. It’s just great that two of the volunteers also found paid employment as a result of the project. All this reminds us how our archives and the skills needed to manage them can educate and create excitement, as well as social and economic opportunity, in local communities.”

Said one volunteer on ‘Ancestors at Sea’:

“Working with (such) great supervisors and (a) group of volunteers, whose humour and dedication created a team enjoying their work and learning much from it, meant that I always looked forward to Tuesdays.’ “

Said another:

“All of us who still have time to spare have signed up for more!”

“Outstanding Runners-up”

The judges also commended outstanding nominations for Unilever Plc, Worcestershire Archives and Archaeology Service, the Chinese Information and Advice Centre (London), Bath Record Office, Vivacity – Peterborough Archives Service and Tameside Archives and Local Studies, all of which made the final short-list.

The judges decided to award a ‘Special Commendation’ to Unilever Plc, commenting:

“Unilever has developed and presented a model of how a business archive could develop and implement a successful and sustainable volunteer programme. We believe that this could be replicated in similar services across the UK and Ireland and that it could become a practical ‘tool’ for companies seeking to engage effectively and productively with the wider community.”

Notes for Editors:

For further details on ‘Ancestors at Sea’, contact: Jacquie Crosby at Lancashire Archives on: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 01772 533028

For more details on the award, contact Jon Elliott at the ARA, on: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 07587 635402

This is the ninth year of the ARA-sponsored Archive Volunteering Award. Previous winners are:

  • London Metropolitan Archives in 2017
  • National Library of Wales in 2016
  • GM1914, Greater Manchester in 2015
  • St Mark and St John, Plymouth in 2014
  • Hull History Centre in 2013
  • Wolverhampton City Archives in 2012
  • Manchester Chinese Archive in 2011
  • Suffolk Record Office in 2010.

For further details on the ARA and its activities, visit:

The annual Archive Volunteering Award is the only one of its kind in the recordkeeping sector and is awarded by the ARA in partnership with The National Archives (UK), the Welsh Government and the Scottish Council on Archives. The award is given for a volunteer-centred project which is in operation the year before (in this case in 2017), though many may be ongoing into 2018, as with ‘Ancestors at Sea.’ Volunteers give approximately a quarter of a million of work hours each year to the archives and records sector. In return, volunteers receive training and help from professional staff to develop new skills and opportunities.

The ARA published its Volunteering Policy in 2011, which led to the current award. The policy is endorsed by most record keeping bodies. Up-to-date information on the ARA and volunteering is at:

The ARA receives financial support from The National Archives (UK), part of which goes towards supporting activities in archive volunteering.

The closing date for entries for the 2019 Archive Volunteering Award will be in early June 2019, with the winner being announced soon afterwards.