S&N was founded in 1992 to provide computer related products for family historians. Family historians at the time needed a fiche and film viewer to be able to view the census. It was believed to be impossible to publish this sort of information on CD-ROM, but I tested various scanners and compression methods and eventually developed a system to publish the census on CD as Acrobat documents.
This was the start of our data CD-ROM publishing, putting hundreds of parish records, directories, poll books and, of course, census in a section of the catalogue called British Data Archive.
To see if others were as excited as me by the opportunity to be able to use the census for research on a home computer I talked to Michael Armstrong, the founder of Family Tree Magazine. He encouraged me to develop the idea and wrote an extensive feature on the project in the magazine.
The article created massive interest and advance orders started to pour in. We mortgaged our home and risked everything to buy the equipment, microfiche and film.
In 1999 we needed to set up a limited company to deal with contracts with CD-pressing plants and the PRO, and so S&N British Data Archive Ltd was born.
BDA now has census material available from 1841 to 1901 covering England and Wales.
We were the first to publish the UK census on CD-ROM and have developed techniques to improve the image quality by the use of custom software and specialist equipment.
Although others have followed in our footsteps some have tried to reduce the number of CDs to the detriment of the image quality.
In theory, early county populations should mean smaller sets of CD-ROMs but because the early census records have been written in pencil and the paper is discoloured , they are almost impossible to read if the image is just black and white. We have used greyscale scanning from the more expensive Silver Halide film to ensure better readability. This means that our census sets for London, Lancashire and Yorkshire can contain 40 to 45 CDs but in independent tests they have been found to have 30% more readable pages.
We now employ over forty people and publish over 4,000 genealogy products plus a vast array of online data. The profits are ploughed back into developing new genealogy resources.
What we do have is high quality data thanks to UK Indexer volunteers and our Online Census team.
We now provide a free to use app called TreeView that lets you build your family tree wherever you are. It was Mark's idea to put together TreeView an interactive online system that allows anyone to store their tree and photographs online. You can share this with invited family or friends. This facility is free for all to use, and is available at www.TreeView.co.uk
TreeView is now also an integral facility on TheGenealogist and can be used if you have ever had a free trial to the site; just visit www.TheGenealogist.co.uk/freesub
We have invested heavily providing a wide range of online data. BMDs, Census, Parish Records, Military Records, and much more. We have created new online features such as mapping, online trees, advanced search systems and sharing data.
Our premium subscriptions to TheGenealogist have proved very popular. New data sets are added at no extra cost to subscribers.
S&N at the 'Who Do You Think You Are? Live!' show at Olympia, London in 2007
In 2007, working with the Federation of Family History Societies we launched a new automated online Genealogy Fair website. GENfair.co.uk is the largest site of it's type with over 120 suppliers and over 20,000 different products.
The company has continued to grow, and we have made a huge amount of resources available both online and on CD. As you can see, our stand in 2007 only occupied a few tables - nowadays, as a sponsor of the event, we occupy two of the largest stands and have our own lecture theatre, which saw huge crowds for our talks.
Mark Bayley giving his talk 'Breaking Down Brick Walls in your Research' at the 'Who Do You Think You Are? Live!' show at Olympia, 2012
S&N Genealogy Supplies stand at the 'Who Do You Think You Are? Live!' show at Olympia, 2012
Our lecture theatre and TheGenealogist.co.uk stand at the 'Who Do You Think You Are? Live!' show at Olympia, 2012
This year, we are celebrating our 20th anniversary. It's hard to believe that we started out 20 years ago, back when there was only one genealogy magazine and computers were so niche that they only got mentioned on the odd page or two.
We now have several sites that provide a range of different services:
www.TheGenealogist.co.uk — online genealogy transcripts and indexes for BMDs, census, parish records, wills, directories, non-conformist records and much more.
www.GenealogySupplies.com — for thousands of genealogy products, including software, books, data CDs, binders, archival storage, charts, and much more.
www.RootsMagic.co.uk — our top-selling genealogy software
www.GenealogyReviews.co.uk - information to help family historians find the software and data they need to research their family history
www.DigitalArchivist.co.uk - conversion of records from the old archival formats of microfiche and microfilm into online databases with a custom front-end