Business Report by Pete Austin - Taken from Business Weekly, 15/02/2005
When Private Eye editor and television personality Ian Hislop Delved into the past for the TV show Who Do You Think You Are? He turned to a Kettering firm for help. Hislop engaged Datafind Services during his quest for information for the popular programme which saw ten celebrities revealing their family history.
The company in Desborough provides a complete document management service, which includes scanning and archiving old, rare and fragile documents and books.
Managing Director and co-founder of the company Tom Gilbert said: "We carried out some work for Ian for the genealogy series. We supplied him with some images from our scanned archive showing a period of history within which his family were featured. Ian replied to thank us for the CD and copy we provided him with and passed on his good wishes."
The Have I Got News For You panellist discovered that both his Grandfathers had fought for King and country - one in the First World War and the other in the Boer War, and said he found going on the trail of his ancestors fascinating. Hislop said, "I assumed that genealogy was a bit of an anorak's hobby but it was incredibly interesting to find out the sort of people my relatives were."
That discovery is shared by people all over the country who are hooked on compiling their family tree.
Helping in that quest is Datafind Services, which has developed scanning solutions, enabling fragile documents, maps, manuscripts and books to be archived to cd-roms. Mr Gilbert said: "We are handling records going back to the early 1800's and will soon be receiving documents going back as far as the 1500's."
The process is labour intensive as the huge, handwritten tomes are scanned page-by-page, photographed, captured on computer and downloaded - reducing a 4in thick book to one compact disc.
With no physical contact between the camera and the object being scanned, very delicate and fragile items can be handled and also faded records can be restored and made easier to read.
Fellow Director at Datafind Services Paul Sugden, a web page designer said: "We create a database for the clients, listing all names so, instead of having to leaf through page after page for a specific entry a key word can be typed in and recalled in an instant."
Using advanced scanning and printing techniques; the company is also able to create electronic copies of old books - treating the originals with great care. Clients are then able to use the disc and put the original irreplaceable books in safe store.
Datafind Services also provides an artwork scanning service. Artists can use the service to create a portfolio of commissions, to reproduce limited edition prints and for insurance purposes.
The company has already carried out work for an art collector who wanted a valuable oil painting scanned and the images placed on a CD.
Mr Gilbert said: "A local painter has also had a painting copied for insurance purposes."
Repairing and restoring images is another service provided by the company. Its graphic artists are able to digitally repair scanned images - removing rips, creases and stains - and replace missing text.
Datafind Services is the only commercial business of it's kind in the UK offering such services.
Putting an end to Burial Plot worries
Scanning burial maps and records is being undertaken by the company for several council's. Local authorities use the maps to locate burial or cremation plots within cemeteries. They are often large or split into many sections and pages and the plots can date back to the 1800's. Often the maps are old and fragile and with daily use their condition continues to deteriorate.
In many cases there is only one copy of each map. Datafind Services scan the maps, repairing the images if necessary and return them to their client within days. Burial registers are also scanned and archived to cd-roms. This way they can be viewed over and over again without further deterioration.
The company keeps a secure library stock of the cd-roms so if clients' copies go missing, or are destroyed, they can be replaced.
Although the burial records books need to be returned as swiftly as possible to respective authorities, Mr Gilbert finds himself reading some of the entries. He said, "They can be fascinating. We have come across details of famous people and there have been many unusual entries in the records concerning births and deaths."
Among the more unusual were details of a head found in a canal, a bucket of human remains handed, an unknown torso and an entry which concerned the body of an unknown male/female found in the street.
Changes in the mortality rate can also be studied from burial records, giving a valuable insight to social history. Registers being scanned from one district showed three books covered the past 50 years but 30 books were needed for the entries for the proceeding 50. In 1867 three of the books covered just a nine-month period. Mr Gilbert said: "There must have been an outbreak of some disease."