No corrections yet
WONDERS-OF THE RECORD OFFICE. Lying methodically on shelves in Chancery-lane is your family history. It dates back, perhaps, to the time when Drake was fighting the Armada, and, if you have the necessary facts to work upon, you can trace it, gener ation by generatio'n, until you disco ver-who knows?-that one of your ancestors_ was an illustrious Eliza bethan courtier._ For in Chancery lane, London, is the Public Record Office, an imposing grey stone build ing that holds under its wing millions upon millions of documents that money cannot buy. There are twenty-six miles of shelves at the' Record Office, all bear ing State and other. papers. Nearly four millions of them are classified, and any individual one can be -pro duced within a quarter of an hour. The earliest important record is the Domesday Book of William the Con queror; and from Henry II.'s time un til the present reign a steady increase in the flow of records into the na tional repository can be traced. - What did the early settlers in Vir ginia write home to James' Ministers? What did the Governor of Botany Bay report? Which officers fought at Fon tenoy? Who -won the great Jinks v. Binks legal duel? Was Sir Some thing-or-other a Royalist or a Round head? The Record Office can answer all these questions. Interesting features of the building are the muster rolls of different regi ments. If you suspect that-an ances tor of yours stormed Badajoz, you can make certain in Chancery-lane. -In fact, if your pedigree lapses into me diaeval times and you have a dim suspicion that a man with a name similar to your own took a prominent part in Athe Battle of-" Agincourt (fought exactly five hundred years ago), the Rolls of Agincourt -will give you.a final decision. All these time-stained documents can be examined by the public on pay ment of various small fees, or any in terested person can obtain access to them by making written application to the secretary and becoming a "student" Visitors to the building are usually either historians, antiquar ies, or genealogists who wish to ac quire a family tree for themselves-or somebody else, or people who intend to prosecute a Chancery claim. The searchers for next-of-kin rela tionships are always in deadly earn est, eager for a chance to assert that if only they can find when Jack Rob .nson- married- Dolly , Smith --several millions in gold will be theirs. They sometimes believe that enormous sums of gold are hoarded at the office, for one poor fellow came to Chancery-lane with a big carpet-bag, announced his name, and informed the officials that he had called to col lect the fortune which awaited him, and could he, please, take part of it away at once! - Next-of-kin claimants are often amusing, too. A .. grimy individual lurched up to an official's desk and rasped: 'I am a Rose, and I iepre sent the Angels." He hardly looked the part, but what he meant to con vey was that his name was Rose, and he had called on behalf of a family named Angel. One corner of the office is a mu seum, built on the site of a thirteenth century chapel, and the public are ad mitted to it without charge. It is cer tainly one of the most interesting mu seums in the world to anyone histor ically inclined, for many letters that. have played a big part in the making of Britain are displayed behind glass covered frames. There you can read a letter signed by Richard II., the first English king to write his own name; there you can see a love-letter from the.Earl of Essex to Queen Elizabeth. Anne Boleyn's small -signature is shown-she spelt her surname with a small "b"; and a letter from Car dinal Wolsey to Henry VIII., praying for mercy, adjoins it. Not the least interesting is the missive in -which King James recommends that torture be applied to Guy Fawkes in order to wring the truth from him. The Domesday Books and.a log-book of the Victory are also on view in this museum.