OUR HELP CENTRE
The Help Centre has been closed during the pandemic, but its reopening is likely imminent, to be announced here and on our blog pages when it occurs.
The Alde Valley Suffolk Family History Group runs an informal family history Help Centre in Leiston. It is in the Leiston Council offices, open to all — members and non-members — free of charge. Experienced family historians are ready to help and advise you, whether you want to begin tracing your family roots but don't know where to start, or have simply reached a ‘brick wall’ in your research.
Opening times of our "surgery" are 10 a.m. to 12 noon on the FIRST AND THIRD SATURDAY of each month. This even includes during August and December (when we have no talks), and at Bank Holiday weekends. Upcoming sessions are listed on the Events pages, the next one also at the top of the Homepage. The Centre can also be open on Wednesdays, by prior appointment — but if you wish to request one, please contact our Secretary, who is listed here.
Read here about our trial 'Drop-in Tuesdays' from 2 to 4pm, on the first Tuesday of each month, next door at the fully accessible Leiston Library.
These were suspended after our first Tuesday session on 3rd March 2020, but restarted in October 2021.
The Help Centre contains much local information which is not available online, including graveyard catalogues for Benhall, Saxmundham, Leiston, Eastbridge, Aldringham and Sutton, censuses, directories, information on local war memorials, books and historic maps — our maps include almost 300 flat Ordnance Survey maps of Suffolk at a scale of 1:2500 (25" to the mile, or 1cm:25m), and you can read about those maps here. We have a large number of CD's and microfiches of local interest — in fact, we hold a wide variety of records for Suffolk and other counties. You can read about our resources Index here, and download the latest published version of the Index from here. Having identified what interests you, there is an explanation of «where to find things in the Help Centre» here.
There are also computers with internet, a printer-scanner and a second scanner. We have unsecured wifi if you wish to bring your laptop or tablet at your own risk. Our desktop is kept offline, but running under Windows XP Version 5.1 (2001) so that it can still read older CD's. We also have our own fiche-reader, for access to our many microfiche records, which now include a large collection of "Essex Monumental Inscriptions".
Experienced family history researchers are present to give assistance if required. The Group looks forward to helping you with your research, including the guilty pleasure of tracing those elusive black sheep!
The Help Centre is upstairs in the OLD COUNCIL OFFICES, MAIN STREET, LEISTON, IP16 4ER, in the same building as, and to the right of, the Library, opposite the Long Shop Museum. Please note that access is by a steep staircase. You can park outside free of charge for one hour, or there's an “unlimited” free car park in Valley Road — go straight down past Barclays Bank and it's 100 yards or so on the right.
To gain access to the Help Centre on a Saturday morning, you will need to ring the doorbell, and wait for one of the volunteers on duty to 'run' down the stairs to welcome you and let you in — we keep the door locked to deter nefarious intruders.
Visitors are always most welcome.