Got a question? Join the conversation

Do you have a question about our records? Are you searching for something but can’t find it on our website? Are you stuck with your research and need quick and easy advice on the next steps to take, but you’re unable to visit the archives? If so, our live chat service may be the answer.

Screenshot of the Records website with the 'live chat' button visible

We are piloting a new live chat service this week (15-17 February) for our users to chat online to our records specialists and research advisers. The service will be available for two hours a day from our Records website. It works like instant messenger where each ‘chat’ is one to one and private, as opposed to a web chat where a conversation is published online for all users to join in with.

We thought this type of service would be particularly well suited to the kind of enquiries we receive, both in the reading rooms and by phone or email. You see online support on many websites now: from banks and major retailers, to museums and other archives. It’s a great way of getting the information you need at the touch of a button, but with a personalised element; so you’re talking to a real records expert, not a computer.

This is a pilot service so do join us online and tell us what you think. At the end of each chat session there will be the opportunity to rate the service and provide any comments you have.

If successful, we’re hoping to roll live chat out as a permanent method of contacting us over the coming months, so your feedback on whether it works and how we’re doing is really important to us.


  1. Yvonne Maxwell says:

    What a wonderful idea. I wish the NA every success with this new venture.

  2. Yvonne Maxwell says:

    I am curfrently researching my mother’s history. she came over as a German Jewish refugee some time in 1939 just before war broke out. Are there any passenger lists from Hook of Holland to Harwich (I assume that was the journey) I could refer to for that time?

    1. Nova Maxwell says:

      Hi Yvonne – Thanks for your comments. I’m afraid we can’t answer specific family history research questions via the blog, but you can use our live chat service, which is currently online (until 17:00 today):

  3. Excellent new service. Let’s hope you can continue and expand it. Thanks!

    1. Nova Maxwell says:

      Thanks for your feedback on the service Keith – glad you found it useful.

  4. Ann Dean says:

    How do I find the birth of an ancestor when the 1861 census record says ‘born on the ocean’?

  5. Georgina Leavell says:

    I hope I am posting in the correct place…I have a question. My mother’s biological father is recorded (on her birth certificate) as being a merchant fireman. What branch of service used that title (name) for a position and where might I possibly find a record of him? I am from the United States and trying to researc a mother who was “given away” shortly after birth. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

  6. Nova Maxwell says:

    We won’t be able to answer any family history research questions via the blog, but there are a number of ways you can contact us with your enquiry, either online, by phone or by post. We are also running another live chat session today at 13:00 – 15:00 (GMT) and tomorrow at 09.15 – 11.15 (GMT) where you can chat one to one with our research advisers. We also have lots of research guidance online on our Records website. Hope this helps!

  7. The Narrator says:

    What a great idea. I hope the week went well and you do this on a regular basis

  8. kyran o'dwyer says:

    an excellant idea!
    some of us are not located in the GMT time one and have to take the time one into acccount. Could you post a schedule on the records website page?

    1. Nova Maxwell says:

      Kyran – thanks for your comment. The pilot has ended now but if we do take the service forward we will make sure we publish the times clearly across our website and that we time the sessions to capture as many time zones as possible.

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