Fancy a chat?

Looking back over our blogs from the past year, there are many examples of how we are working hard at The National Archives to make our records as accessible as possible, whether it be through cataloguing, digitisation, outreach or research. This includes our advice service – you could have the most fantastic documents in the world, but they’re not much good if you can’t find them!
Live Chat is accessible through our website

Live Chat is accessible through our website

Thanks largely to digitisation projects, our audience is now global and ever-expanding. In order to keep up with this, approximately a year ago we began trialling a new Live Chat service. This service is now part of our daily advice service from 11:00-15:00 GMT, allowing users anywhere in the world with access to the internet to connect with our advisers instantly.

As one of the ‘chatters’, Live Chat is one of the varied public duties I undertake each week. It is a great combination of the immediacy of a phonecall and the useful links that can be sent over email. It allows us to instantly point users to relevant parts of our website and know they are looking at the right page – a far cry from explaining step by step over the phone, or even by letter.

Everyone likes a chat!: 'Photograph of group of ladies (4) in Rotten Row, two mounted, entitled 'A Morning Chat' (COPY 1/406/145); 'A police constable on beat duty chatting to a woman police sergeant.' (INF 14/407/3); 'Typical Mosuto witchdoctor in the Quthing District (South Basutoland) chatting with wives and dependents of soldiers of the African Pioneer Corps.' (INF 10/183/26)

Yesterday, for example, I spent two hours answering chat enquiries with some colleagues. We had questions ranging from finding a First World War medal card, for which I could carry out a simple search and send the exact link, to an in-depth query on tithe maps for which I sent the user a link to our research guide. We helped with a series of quick research questions that saved users time and effort sending in emails or making long phonecalls.

We have received overwhelmingly good feedback on the service so far, so we hope to continue to expand in the future. One of the best has been from a deaf user who can now interact with advisers instantly.

You can join the ‘chat’ anytime Tuesday – Friday between 11:00 and 15:00 GMT by following the link on our contact us page. Give it a go!

Naturally, I couldn’t leave my blog without a nod to a relevant record, and although this may be a tenuous link, the basic warning still applies in the world of the online chat ‘service’!

Anti-rumour and careless talk: 'Don't ask your Service friends embarrassing questions', 1939-1946 (INF 3/261)


  1. David Matthew says:

    Hi Jenni,

    Thanks for the blog. I couldn’t agree more about the cataloguing, last week I found some records about the Air Ministry employing Amy Johnson (not shown in the catalogue/Discovery) whilst she was married and therefore caught by the ‘Marriage Bar’ which ran from 1895-1946. Amy only joined in 1940 (after her divorce) and died in 1941. I think the chat service is great and it is needed because of the on-going issues with Discovery.


  2. Jenni Orme says:

    Many thanks for your comment David – I’m glad you’ve found Live Chat useful.

    Great news about your research find as well. If you have time, please ‘tag’ it in Discovery so others can find it. You could use a tag such as ‘marriage bar’. This will hopefully help to make it more accessible in the future.

    We look forward to seeing you back on Chat soon!


  3. Penny Holt says:

    The TNA is doing a stellar job not only with Live Chat, but on so many fronts for overseas researchers. My only regret is that Live Chat starts at 3 AM Pacific Time.

    1. Jenni Orme says:

      Hi Penny,

      Thanks for your comment. As you say, we definitely have overseas researchers in mind with many of our projects – I’m glad you’re reaping the benefits!

      We are looking to extend Live Chat in the future, so do keep an eye on our website for further information and hopefully it won’t be such an early morning for you! In the meantime, please feel free to contact us by email through our website.


  4. yunus says:

    My wife obtained British Citizenship in it possible to get copy of supporting documents e.g. copy of her Indian passport?

    1. Jenni Orme says:

      Hi Yunus,

      Thanks for your comment.

      I’m afraid we can’t answer specific research questions via the blog, but you can use our Live Chat service between 11-3 today, or email us for advice anytime:


  5. Izzy says:

    Hi, does anyone know how/if its possible to find out what happened to a WW1 soldier if I have his discharge certificate?
    Many thanks.

    1. Nell Brown (Admin) says:

      Hi Izzy,

      Unfortunately we’re unable to help with family history requests on the blog, but if you go to our contact us page: you’ll see how to get in touch with our record experts via phone, email or live chat.

      I hope that helps.


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