Where do I start my research?

“Do you have my grandad’s Royal Air Force service record?”

“Can I do research on the Great Western Railway at The National Archives?”

“Are the records that I want available online?”

“Where can I find out more about the history of my village?”

Very often, the best place to find answers to questions like these will be one of our research guides. These guides are there to help you connect the person, place or subject of interest to you with relevant sources of information. They will tell you what relevant records are held at The National Archives and whether or not you can view them online. Many of them also mention important sources held elsewhere, and quite a few include some suggestions about how to make effective use of the catalogue and other search tools.

What are you looking for?
Browse our research guidance online at nationalarchives.gov.uk/records

If you are already familiar with our website, you may have noticed that we have recently rearranged the guides to make them easier to find. You can explore groups of guidance on related topics or browse through an A-Z list.

If you want to do a flexible search of the guides, you can use the page for searching our whole website. Tick the relevant box to restrict your search just to our research guides.

Select just the research guides
Tick the box to restrict your search to just the content of the research guides

 

Our research guides have a long history. Earlier versions of many of them were available as leaflets in our reading rooms long before we had a website and they have grown and changed enormously over many years. Although our collections of historical records are so vast that we cannot have a guide covering every possible area of research, there are now more than 300 guides. No doubt they will continue to evolve as we acquire more records, make more records available online and improve the content of our catalogue.

What next? If this inspires you, you can

Explore our research guidance for yourself

Browse research guidance from other institutions, such as:

Learn more about using archives on the University of Nottingham’s Manuscripts and Special Collections website

24 comments

  1. Christine Hancock says:

    Well said.
    I always recommend using your research guides.
    Sometimes if I can’t answer a question, I look it up on your website – makes me look very knowledgable!

    1. Andrew Janes says:

      Thank you, Christine. I’m glad that you find our guidance so useful.

  2. The Narrator says:

    Thank you for this post – very helpful. Once you’ve found your source, what should you do with it? Here are some tips on how to get the very best out of primary sources: http://www.essexvoicespast.com/category/research-techniques/

  3. Peter says:

    Nice blog….

  4. JILL ABBOTT says:

    Hi Can you help, we own a building on Laburnum St Atherton M46 9FP currently know as Buildmain Ltd which is our business, we are looking to find out the history of the building it was built in 1845, we want to know what it was built for we think it was a chapel, looking for photos etc

    thanks

    Jill Abbott

    1. Marion Downie (admin) says:

      Hi Jill,

      I’m afraid we don’t answer research queries on our blog. Use our research guides in the records section of the website as a starting point for your research. Alternatively, you can make research requests using our online form: http://nationalarchives.gov.uk/contact/contactform.asp?id=1.

      Many thanks

      Marion

  5. Mr Bryan Marshall says:

    Hi,I am trying to research my wife’s father who sang on the radio in the 1940’s any help you could give me would be appreciated,(like where to start). his name was Richard Stretch

    1. Andrew Janes says:

      Thank you for your comment, Bryan.

      I’m afraid that we can’t answer specific research queries on our blog.

      With a question like this, it can be useful to think about who is likely to have wanted that information at the time and then kept it subsequently. For instance, if someone appeared regularly on BBC Radio, the BBC’s archives may contain some information about that person.

      You can also try exploring the research guidance and search tools on our website.

      Good luck with your research.

  6. M. McDonald says:

    Hi. I am trying to find out where I can obtain a copy of my Grandfathers Birth Certificate.
    He was born in 1884 at Ahmednagar in India. His Father was in the military.
    Regards Mac

  7. Andrew Janes says:

    Thanks for your comment, Mac.

    As you’ll have seen, we can’t answer specific research questions in comments on blog posts.

    As mentioned in this blog post, you may find it useful to look at some of the research guides on our website, such as these two:
    http://nationalarchives.gov.uk/records/looking-for-person/birthmarriagedeatharmedforces.htm
    http://nationalarchives.gov.uk/records/looking-for-person/bmdatseaorabroad.htm

    Good luck with your research.

  8. patrick o'keefe says:

    How can I find the military records for Lt.Michael Martin invalided from the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers on 6th May 1919

    1. Andrew Janes says:

      Thanks for your comment, Patrick.

      As you’ll have seen, we can’t answer personal family history research questions on the blog.

      You may find this research guide helpful to start with:
      http://nationalarchives.gov.uk/records/looking-for-person/officerbritisharmyafter1913.htm

      You can also take a look at the Start Here pages on our website: http://nationalarchives.gov.uk/records/start-here.htm

      Good luck with your research.

    2. Barbara Hill says:

      How can I find Military records of my father? He was in the Kings Liverpool Regiment and was in France. His no. was 49428 and enlisted 04-01-1915 and was discharged 04-04-1919?

    3. Andrew Janes says:

      Thank you for your comment, Barbara.

      As you will have seen, we’re unable to help with research requests on the blog, but if you go to our contact us page: http://nationalarchives.gov.uk/contact/ you’ll see how to get in touch with our record experts via phone, email or live chat.

      You may also find this research guide helpful.
      http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your-research/research-guides/british-army-soldiers-after-1913/

      Good luck with your research.

  9. Gill Copley says:

    Hi, I know you can’t answer specific personal questions, but I wondered if you could please give me some clues on trying to find out about my great grandfather. He was Captain Dugald Lyon from Waterloo in Liverpool and he worked for Cunard, becoming their Chief Marine Superintendent between 1915 and 1925.

    1. Andrew Janes says:

      Thanks for your comment, Gill.

      One way round this is to look for records about Merchant Navy officers. This guide may help you start: http://nationalarchives.gov.uk/records/looking-for-person/officermerchantnavy.htm

      Another way would be to try to find out whether any records of the shipping company survive, where those records are, and whether they include any information of use to you. A useful place to start searching is the Advanced search screen of our Discovery catalogue. Go to http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/advanced-search and click on ‘Record creators’.

      It’s worth bearing in mind that I wrote this blog post three years ago and some things have changed on our website since then. You might also want to have a look at this much more recent post by my colleagues Paul and Matt: http://blog.nationalarchives.gov.uk/blog/help-research-website-redesign/

      Good luck with your research.

  10. David Haines says:

    I have a notice of “killed in action” addressed to “dear madam” and refers to G.J.R.Webber, which was my grandmother’s maiden name.It is the first time any of us in the family (surviving) have seen it, so we are keen to know about our ” great uncle?” and where he is buried. Hope you have records of him and that you can help. Thanks in anticipation and best regards,
    David Haines.

    1. Andrew Janes says:

      Thanks for your comment, David.

      As you’ll have seen, we can’t answer personal family history research questions on the blog.

      You may find this research guide helpful to start with: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your-research/research-guides/deaths-first-and-second-world-wars/

      You can also try the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website: http://www.cwgc.org/

      Good luck with your research.

  11. Ezeliora Chukwuemeka Daniel says:

    Hello,
    Please I am interested in a Native court case between Dimude vs
    Uboshika @ Isuofia NC in 1929 and 1943 in Awka District, Nigeria. The
    same case content was also contested between Dimihevuadi vs Umeozo
    Umeononamkume @ Mbalaolie Native Court (NC) in Awka District, Nigeria
    in the year 1959,.
    Please these documents if found any will help me to finish up my book
    on the history and seniority in Igbo land, there link to Isreal and
    Seniority in my town and my town relations to other towns.
    Please could you give to me any of your contact that is connected to
    Skype or Facebook

    Thanks and best regards
    Ezeliora Chukwuemeka Daniel

    1. Nell Brown (Admin) says:

      Hi Ezeliora,

      Thank you for your comment.

      We’re unable to help with research requests on the blog, but if you go to our contact us page: http://nationalarchives.gov.uk/contact/ you’ll see how to get in touch with our record experts via phone, email or live chat.

      I hope that helps.

      Best,

      Nell

  12. Pete Trafford says:

    I am looking for details on the USAAF storage depot at Homewood Park, (now Richings Park) in Iver Buckinghamshire after WW2 that is marked on an ordnance survey map dated 1951. It is the ex repair hangers of what was the Hawker Aircraft Factory, Langley. Bucks. I have tried various searches on the NA website, but drawing a complete blank. How should I change my research?
    Many thanks.
    Pete Trafford
    (The Langley Academy)

    1. Nell Brown (Admin) says:

      Hi Pete

      Thank you for your comment.

      We’re unable to help with research requests on the blog, but if you go to our contact us page: http://nationalarchives.gov.uk/contact/ you’ll see how to get in touch with our record experts via phone, email or live chat.

      I hope that helps.

      Best,

      Nell

  13. Tina says:

    Hi, how and where do I look for adoption details that were held at Liverpool County Petty Sessions Court.in 1956. What identification do I need to look for these. Thank you

    1. Nell Brown (Admin) says:

      Hi Tina,

      Thank you for your comment.

      We’re unable to help with research requests on the blog, but if you go to our contact us page: http://nationalarchives.gov.uk/contact/ you’ll see how to get in touch with our record experts via phone, email or live chat.

      I hope that helps.

      Best,

      Nell

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