The National Archives' collection is one of the largest in the world, with 11 million records, from Domesday Book to modern government papers.
Our collection includes paper and parchment records, electronic records and websites, photographs, posters and drawings. We also have an estimated six million maps covering not only the British Isles but also many countries and regions of the world.
The information below should help you decide if we are the right place for your enquiry. A number of records are not kept by The National Archives, but by local record offices and other bodies. Further information on these can be found below under 'Records held elsewhere'. Our Search the archives page gives a list of resources for records research.
Records we hold
Go to our Catalogue to search descriptions of the records that we hold.
We have a large collection of digitised public records. Go to DocumentsOnline for online access to these records, including Prerogative Court of Canterbury wills, Cabinet papers and World War One medal index cards. Many other records can be viewed in our reading rooms at Kew. See Visit us for more information on planning your visit.
Research guides are available to help you find out more about our records. These are topic-based and very detailed.
As the official public archive of the United Kingdom government, we hold records covering more than 1,000 years of history. These include:
- Records of the central courts of law including Court of King's Bench, Court of Common Pleas, Court of Exchequer, Central Criminal Court, Assizes and Court of Chancery
- Records useful for family historians including census returns for England and Wales, Prerogative Court of Canterbury wills, passenger lists, divorce records and military and criminal records
- Service and operational records of the British armed forces
- Medieval and early modern government records
- Records of the modern central government departments including the Home Office, the Cabinet Office and the Treasury
- Foreign and Colonial Office correspondence showing Britain's relations with many foreign countries and former British colonies
The various records listed above have different coverage dates. Normally government records which have been selected for permanent preservation are sent to The National Archives when they are 30 years old, but some are transferred to us earlier under the Freedom of Information Act.
Records held elsewhere
The National Archives does not hold or issue copies of birth, marriage or death certificates. Go to the General Register Office website to order these certificates.
Military service records for the Second World War are kept by the Ministry of Defence: see the Veterans UK website.
Many records are kept in local archives and other organisations. These include:
- Parish registers
- Wills after 1858
- Personal papers and diaries
- Records of businesses, workhouses and schools
Before visiting The National Archives it is a good idea to check whether the records you are looking for are kept elsewhere. The following resources might help your research:
- Access to Archives (A2A) gives details of collections of records found across England and Wales, dating from the eighth century to the present day
- The National Register of Archives (NRA) contains catalogues of all kinds of records relating to British history held in archives in the United Kingdom and overseas
- The ARCHON Directory provides contact details for the archives included in the National Register of Archives
- The Manorial Documents Register (MDR) notes the existence and location of manorial records in England and Wales
The National Archives holds some centrally managed records of Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland. However, if you are researching these countries you should consider contacting their respective national archives:
- National Library of Wales
- National Archives of Scotland
- Public Record Office of Northern Ireland
- National Archives of Ireland