What is a Finding Aid?
Archive guides and inventories are finding aids. They tell you what records have been deposited in the archive or library, what time period the record covers, what place or persons were included, and where that record can be found. If you are serious about documenting your own genealogy and proving that the ancestors on your pedigree charts belong to you, this is essential information for you to have. Most finding aids, in the past, were printed. And these old guides may pre-date an archive fire or a flood in the Exchequer archives.
Separate archives for the storage and preservation of official records came late to the British Isles. Records were the purview and possession of the officials keeping and using them.
And for Ireland, the finding aids for census records, parish registers, wills are essential because these record categories were destroyed with the 1922 bombings in the Four Courts, where they were stored for safe-keeping.
Too many times we assume that “all the records are gone” when the facility is gone—the finding aid will tell you what records they held in the first place. And you can then look elsewhere for those records they never had in their possession. You can do your current genealogy work from a position of knowledge and hope. Your favorite genealogist, Arlene Eakle http://arleneeakle.com
PS And know that there are more records that have survived than you will have time and money to search!