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Visiting The National Archives in Kew for family history - top tips


Planning a visit to the National Archives to find your ancestors? Read on for some great advice on making the most of your trip and what you need to know before your visit. Get a free DVD, worth £9.99, on visiting archives (including TNA) with the Feb issue of Family Tree magazine.

The National Archives at Kew is the official archive of the UK government and home to millions of records relating to life in Britain over the centuries. Members of the public are welcome to visit (Tuesday to Saturday) and view the records free of charge.


The reference library at National Archives is home to more than 65,000 printed and online sources, and you can check out the reference library catalogue online before your trip, to give you an idea of what records might be useful to you.

On your first visit, be sure to call in at the ‘start here’ desk on the first floor, where staff will help familiarise you with what’s kept where and can offer advice on how to make the most of your day. You can apply for a reader’s ticket (bring two forms of ID) on the second floor and then you’re free to start your research.

Video: what records are held at National Archives?

Discovery Catalogue

Whether or not you’re visiting the National Archives in person, its website is a valuable resource. The National Archives Discovery catalogue allows access to a large number of digitised public records, via a search of more than 32 million. If you wish, you can restrict your search to material held by the National Archives and/or material available to download.

The site also has a family history research guide which covers records you can view at National Archives and elsewhere, with reference numbers if you’d like to see the originals. This guide also gives good advice on what information you’ll need to know about your ancestor before searching a particular category of record.

If you have a reader’s ticket, you can order up to six documents in advance of your visit; or from one of the PCs in the reading room at the National Archives, in which case they’ll be delivered to your numbered locker. 

Be well prepared for your research trip with our essentials tool kit:

  • Sharpened pencils and a notebook
  • A copy of your family tree
  • Essential names and dates relating to the ancestor you’re researching
  • Camera and laptop 
  • Reference numbers for documents you’d like to look at (or pre-order these beforehand)

National Archives, Bessant Drive, Kew TW9 4DU; tel: 0208 876 3444; website

Opening times: Tue & Thu - 9am to 7pm; Wed, Fri & Sat: 9am to 5pm. Closed Sunday & Monday.

Back to "Getting Started" Category

20/10/2017 Share this story   Share on Facebook icon Share on Twitter icon Share on Pinterest icon Share on Google Plus icon Share on Linked In icon Share via Email icon

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