Top tips to make the most of a family history archive visit


28 July 2021
Plan your perfect day of research - online or on-site
Read on for a time-saver guide to planning and making trips to an archive to research your family history.

How to make the most of your visit to the archives for family history

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How to prepare for your family history trip to the archives

1. Check the website for opening days and times. Many archive opening hours have changed in recent years, and you don't want to make a wasted trip. This is especially important, if you only have a few precious days in which to visit an archive, while on holiday. 

2. You may well have to prebook items you’d like to view. There is likely to be a maximum number of items that may be booked too. So make a list of your priority requirements, and place orders for those records, so that you accomplish your key research goals.

3. Search the archive catalogue. Make good use of your time by exploring the archives' online catalogue before visiting.

4. Review your research notes (while you’re making your trip are there any other items you would like to see too, to make the most of the journey).

What to pack for your family history trip to the archives

  • As ever, pack paper, pencils, and charged devices. Also pack ID and/or your archives card.
  • Bring relevant research notes and perhaps a copy of your family tree, so that you can cross-refer to useful details if needed.

How to make the most of your time in the archives

  • Set yourself some specific research steps / a check list to help keep your research session on track.
  • Take photographs of the records. You may need to seek permission to do so, but taking photographs is a very swift way of ensuring you get the maximum benefit of your time in the archives. You can transcribe the records in your own time, when back home.
  • Keep track of your photos. Photograph the archive order slip and photograph the cover of the book/ register/ newspaper, etc that you are consulting. This will help you know exactly which records you were consulting and what the photos represent. Take a photo in entirety of each page and take close-ups where helpful.

For further practical tips to help you do your family history, see the Family History Workbook for Beginners - brand new edition out now.