The National Archives (TNA) is home to millions of historical documents, known as records, which were created and collected by UK central government departments and major courts of law.
Address: The National Archives, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 4DU.
For sat navs use the postcode TW9 4AD (Bessant Drive). Note that car parking charges will soon apply. The nearest station is Kew Gardens, and various bus routes pass nearby. See their website for details.
Telephone: +44 (0) 20 8876 3444
Restaurant facilities are available.
|Day||Building hours||Car park hours|
|Monday||Closed||08:30 – 20:00|
|Tuesday||09:00 – 19:00||08:30 – 20:00|
|Wednesday||09:00 – 17:00||08:30 – 20:00|
|Thursday||09:00 – 19:00||08:30 – 20:00|
|Friday||09:00 – 17:00||08:30 – 20:00|
|Saturday||09:00 – 17:00||08:30 – 20:00|
Tuesdays and Thursdays are good days to visit as you get more time to research documents and by the time you leave rush hour has eased off.
What is available to research:
The National Archives (TNA) is home to millions of historical documents, known as records, which were created and collected by UK central government departments and major courts of law. For example, they have records from the Home Office, the Foreign Office and the Central Criminal Court. Be aware that to view most records you will have to visit the archives and access them using a reader’s ticket. To help focus on those that are relevant to your study, they provide research guides (available via their website) under various categories:
- Family History
- First World War
- Second World War
- Military and Maritime
- Social and Cultural History
- Criminals, Courts and prisons
- Political and economic history
- Foreign and colonial history
- Land maps
- Medieval and early modern history
- Records for current legal purposes
- Online collections
These guides allow you to search for records using filters and are easy to navigate. The website of TNA is very easy to use. It is available online or you may find it useful to access it on site where there are helpful members of staff who can assist in the hunt for those elusive records. A reader’s ticket allows the ordering of documents online in advance of your visit, so they are ready for when you arrive. This does speed up the process of getting down to serious research and after you have finished and returned some of these documents you may then order more, making best use of your time.
If there are other records available elsewhere in the country, then TNA website will indicate these other relevant archive sources.
Over 5% of The National Archives’ records have so far been digitised and they are continuing to expand this service. Browse this section to find out how to search some of the most popular online collections. Use this link to take you to the online collections noted below. There is a charge to download some documents from these archives, but you can view them for free at TNA.
Some of these collections have been digitised and placed online through either Ancestry or findmypast. For example, British Army and Militia records are available through findmypast, while census records are available through both these genealogy sites.
Here are a few examples of the collections available:
Household Cavalry soldiers’ service records 1799-1920
French muster rolls from the Battle of Trafalgar
Prisoners of war 1715-1945 (very useful for Napoleonic prisoners of war)
Royal Navy officers service records 1756-1931
Activities and talks
The TNA run a range of activities and talks throughout the year, and by signing up to their newsletter you will receive details. The Summer Lecture Series welcomes a range of leading academic speakers whose research explores an annual theme and is underpinned by the rich collections held at The National Archives. The purpose of the series is to showcase the breadth of pioneering academic research which has drawn on records held at TNA, and to highlight their own growing research programme as an Independent Research Organisation.
National Archives newsletter
Sign up for this monthly round-up of news, blogs, offers and events. If you wish to use TNA on a regular basis then this newsletter is essential to keep you up to date with what’s happening at the site, including forthcoming talks, changes to opening times and anything else that would affect your visit.
The National Archives shop
This is one of the best book shops around, with books on British, military and family history, especially those that have been written using documents from TNA. The shop stocks the latest Napoleonic titles and as new books are published the shop makes space by offering the older titles at much-reduced prices, so you can often find a bargain here. The shop also stocks many research guides, so it is worth browsing the shelves. Genealogy tiles are often very useful for studying the general history of a period, not just family ancestry.