Briefing Pack

Published: 22nd December 2009

1. Local Archives 

Local Archives Offices contain an enormous amount of information including Census records, newspapers and property records. They are a useful point of call when either verifying information found on the internet or conducting deeper research beyond what is available on the main sources of family history such as the IGI or Census online.

To access the Local Archives offices you need to find out which one is closest to you or whether you need to access an office near where your ancestors lived. You should work this out by utilising the primary sources (referred to above) first of all to plot out a rough guide indicating the area in which your ancestors lived. Once you have done this you can look at the offices. The addresses for these may come up if you do a search on 'Local Archives Offices' or you could also look on the local council website as these often include a link.

Your Family Tree have produced a series of useful guides to help you with the following:

The National Archives Directory includes contact details for record repositories in the United Kingdom and also for institutions elsewhere in the world which have substantial collections of manuscripts noted under the indexes to the National Register of Archives.

Jisc's Archives Hub allows you to search across descriptions of archives held at over 350 institutions across the UK.

2. Regional Archives

Archives Wales online catalogue allows you with a single search to obtain information about more than 7,000 collections of historical records in the holdings of 21 archives in Wales. These archives are open to the public and you can use this site to plan your visit and find out more. Archives Wales forms part of the UK's National Archives Network.

The National Records of Scotland

In the National Records of Scotland (NRS) you will find records created by Scottish government from the 12th century until the present day, along with private records created by businesses, landed estates, families, courts, churches and other corporate bodies. It also includes family history records (including birth, death and marriage registers, and census returns). Many of Scotland's local authorities, universities, health boards, and other corporate bodies also keep historical records and maintain archive services. Some government records relating to Scotland are held by The National Archives (in London). 

The Public Records Office of Northern Ireland

The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) is the official archive for Northern Ireland. It aims to identify and preserve records of historical, social and cultural importance and make them available for the information, education and enjoyment of the public. PRONI is the official place of deposit for public records in Northern Ireland.  

In addition, it collects a wide range of archives from private sources. PRONI also advises on and promotes best practice in archive and records management to ensure that today's records will be available for future generations.

3. The National Archives

The National Archives is the UK government's official archive, containing over 1,000 years of history. As the government's national archive for England, Wales and the United Kingdom, they hold over 1,000 years of the nation's records for everyone to discover and use.

4. BBC Family History

The BBC Family History site is a great place to start if you want to research your family history:

5. Using Written Archives to Discover the History of your House

Nick Barratt and the BBC have compiled a guide to researching the history of your house. 

If you want to find out more about the history of your house, like all good detective stories, your research is likely to lead you down many avenues, some of which will prove to be dead ends. However, this guide should whet your appetite for research and introduce the main documents that you will need to consult to piece together the clues. These will include maps and plans, legal material, records for house occupancy, manorial records, tax returns and sources for 'national' events. In addition it is also possible to reconstruct the original interior appearance of your house through design registers, inventories and insurance records, and bring the past back to life.

BBC Guide to Researching the History of your House 

6. Community Archives

The Community Archives and Heritage Group support and promote community archives in the UK.

Podcast: 'How to' start research in archives'

Can't see the video? Download it here

In this podcast Nick Barratt talks about how to start your research in local and national archives.