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The National Archives (TNA)


Ruskin Avenue


020 8876 3444


020 8878 8905




The National Archives (TNA) is the main repository for the archives of UK government departments, courts of law and other national bodies but not those held in private and family hands. TNA was established in 2003, merged from a number of organisations which included the Public Record Office (PRO) formed 1838, the Historical Manuscripts Commission (formerly the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts) formed 1869, Office of Public Sector Information (OPSI) formed 2005 and Her Majesty's Stationery Office (HMSO) formed 1786.

Amongst its vast holdings, TNA holds the following family history resources:

§  Nonconformist registers.

§  Census returns.

§  PCC wills and admons (Prerogative courts of Canterbury & York).

§  Death duty registers.

§  Divorce records index (1859-1958)

§  Fleet marriage registers.

§  Vicar general marriage licences.

§  Adoption records from 1927.


For a guide to using the archives see The National Archives Understand the archives section or consult 'The National Archives: A Practical Guide for Family Historians' by Stella Colwell, published by TNA. An overview of the records and resources held at TNA that could help with getting started with family history or any other kind of research is available here. Sections include details of what records are held at TNA and what is not available, records that are available online and how to use the archives.

The main online catalogue covering TNA’s holdings together with a number of other related catalogues can be found at the TNA’s online catalogue called Discovery. A number of records have been digitised and are available to search at the Online Records section. These records are also integrated into Discovery where they are available for searching. Other records are available through partnerships with online commercial suppliers. Discovery also features an image viewer, which means that users can see a low-resolution version of a document before paying to download it. For extensive guidance on using Discovery see the frequently asked questions. A database called ‘TNA Names’ containing over 36,000 records extracted from The National Archives covering various sources all over the UK is available at the The Genealogist. The full document reference is given for each name, along with some personal details where available.

The National Archives hosts a number of specialist catalogues available to view at the TNA Discovery catalogue including:

Access to Archives (A2A)
The A2A database contains catalogues describing archives held locally in England and Wales and dating from the eighth century to the present day. To access the catalogue, click on ‘Advanced Search’, then click on ‘Search other archives’ and follow instructions.

ARCHON Directory (Find an archive)
Find the details of a UK archive from our searchable list of over 2,500 archives The catalogue can be found on the Discovery home page.

National Register of Archives (NRA)
The NRA contains information on the nature and location of manuscripts and historical records that relate to British history. To access the catalogue, click on ‘Advanced Search’, then click on ‘Record Creators’ and then select ‘creator type’ from the dropdown list.

The Manorial Documents Register (MDR)
The Manorial Documents Register identifies the nature and location of manorial records.
To access the catalogue, click on ‘Advanced Search’, then click on ‘Record Creators’ and select ‘Manor’ from the dropdown list.

The reference library is extensive and includes poll books, post office directories, electoral registers, professional directories, military histories, school and university registers, maps and gazetteers, Victoria County Histories, journals and many electronic publications. The library catalogue is available at and via the specialist library catalogue Copac.

Audrey Collins, a Family History Records Specialist with TNA writes a blog at The official blog can be found here.