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Tips on using the National Railway Museum archive to search for railway worker ancestors

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The National Railway Museum (NRM) can help to bring your ancestor’s work on the railway to life. NRM archivist, Alison Kay, shows you how to get the best from these very special collections.

The National Railway Museum has many published guides and resources in its library that can help anyone researching railway ancestors.

Search the catalogue

Before visiting the archive, we recommend some reconnaissance on our library catalogue – typing in ‘family history’ will bring up our full selection of titles.

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Visit the archive

On visiting Search Engine (the National Railway Museum’s library and archive centre), you can read up on the history of the railway company your ancestor worked for; listen to oral history recordings from people doing similar jobs; see photos of the location where they worked; and hold tools similar to those they handled.

Search Engine is usually open Wednesdays to Saturdays, 10am to 5.45pm.

Popular collections to study

Find clues in staff magazines, for those companies that produced them, of the major railway companies of the 20th century, and get an insight into what life was like working on the railways.

Research railway workers killed in the war in NRM’s online database of over 20,000 railwaymen who died in the First World War – our volunteers add information and photographs every week. 

Consult the official accident reports, find examples of certificates and books presented to staff, and explore the family and organisational archives that we hold as well as collections of large industrial works.

Whatever role your ancestor worked in on the railways, you will find something in the NRM collections to link with your past.

National Railway Museum, Leeman Road, York YO26 4XJ; tel: 0844 815 3139; website.

Find out more about tracing your railway ancestors in the March issue of Family Tree magazine, available in print and digital editions.

 

 

 

 

 

(Image © Nilfanion)

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