Family History Research UK - Record offices and archives

Family History Research UK

Online records are a very valuable source and can provide a lot of information, particularly if your research is focused on the 19th and 20th centuries.  However, the further back in time we go, the more likely we are to need to search original records or transcripts, most of which are only available in record offices and archives. It is often necessary to make a trip to a record office or archive, in order to view original records (such as parish registers) on microfilm or microfiche, or even to look at the original documents themselves under the supervision of an archivist. 

old manMost of the large national records offices (including The National Archives) are in the London area. I am able to visit these for research purposes as required. I do not charge additional travel costs for visiting any record office or archive that is situated within the M25 (see the "Services and Prices" page for details).

It may be necessary to visit other record offices or archives in order to carry out research into your family tree. If that is the case, I will let you know in advance what my travel costs will be, so you can decide whether you wish me to go there or not.

Original records are held in various record offices and archives around the country. I have described the main record offices of interest to genealogists below, but this is not an exhaustive list - I may need to use others under certain circumstances.

The National archives

The National Archives (TNA) are in Kew, southwest London.  The records of the armed forces (Army, Royal Navy and RAF) are all kept here,  migration records, many occupational records (e.g. customs officers, Merchant Navy, Metropolitan Police),  death duty records and many others. Some sets of records have been indexed, but many have not, so research may involve searching through original documents for information.

London metropolitan archives

London Metropolitan Archives (LMA)  is in the City of London and holds many records for both the City and County of London and for the old county of Middlesex, now part of Greater London. There is also a good collection of wills which have been indexed, and a large collection of newspapers.

Guildhall library

Guildhall Library in the City of London holds a number of records useful to family historians, including apprenticeship records, Boyd's Marriage Index, and trade directories for London. There are also many records relating to business in London, including brewing, the Stock Exchange. Some of the records previously here, particularly original manuscripts, have now been transferred to the London Metropolitan Archives.

society of genealogists

The Society of Genealogists has an extensive collection of books, indexes and original documents useful to family historians. These records relate to the whole UK, not just London, as well as many other countries.

county record offices

Every county in England and Wales has responsiblity for archiving records - some share this responsibility with a neighbouring county or with the local diocesan record office (see below). The service they provide varies, and many records are unindexed, but with patience they can be a source of real treasure for the family historian.

In particular they hold the county parish registers, which go back as far as the 16th century in some cases and may not be available anywhere else.
Records are not complete - some may have been lost or destroyed, and during the English Civil War in the 17th century many churches stopped making records altogether - this is known as the Civil War Gap!

diocesan record offices

Church records are generally held in diocesan record offices, although these may be shared with county record offices (see above) or with other institutions such as universities. Parish registers may also be found here, although these are more usually held in county record offices. Before 1858, wills were proved via diocesan courts, and these records are now held by diocesan record offices.

London probate office

The London Probate Office holds the National Probate Index - this includes details of all wills proved since 1858.

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