Did you know that you can access any government records as old as Shakespeare’s will and as new as the tweets from Downing Street? Well, there is an organization that is mandated to collect and preserve these records for posterity while making it readily available and accessible to the public when needed.
Welcome to the National Archives!
The UK’s National Archive is an agency of the Culture, Media and Sports Department and houses thousands of years of history. It is the body that was formed after the four records organizations merged. These organizations include Historical Manuscripts Commission, Public Records Office, Her Majesty’s Stationery and Public Sector Information Office.
The National Archives (TNA) is all about information: from collecting, setting standards, supporting innovations in the records and information management and improving best practice frameworks that encourage responsible use of public information. It is always important to glance back at the past so as to inform out future decisions, and that is where the National Archives come in.
One of the major responsibilities of TNA is formulating and implementing policies that affect the collection, management, and dissemination of information to the public. Some of its key roles of the organization in information policy include:
This involves the regulations surrounding record issues from record creation to use
This is about the information that should be collected for storage
This involves the safe keeping of the information
This involves giving the public the opportunity to view the preserved records
The services involve educating the archivists and the public on how to care for the archives
TNA manages and protects intellectual property through UK’s crown copyright
The organization ensures that all who use the records comply with the acts, policies and regulations
TNA provides a range services to the public, which include tools and guidance on how to use the available public information as well as how to manage your own. This organization also helps companies improve information standards in their processes a well as in management of information.
What Records Can You Find At the National Archives?
The National Archives has the largest collection of public records and historical government information dating thousands of years. These records include government papers, digital records, maps, posters, photographs, paintings and drawings in addition to parchment and paper.
Normally, the records that are archived are usually at least 30 years old, although that rule is gradually being revised to records that are 20 years. It is important to note that numerous other records are archived a lot earlier than 20 years, a move that is permitted by the Freedom of Information Act.
As much as you can get pretty much any public record in the archives, there are other records that are only accessible from other offices. These records include
Certificates: marriage, birth or death certificates and adoption records can be found from the General Registrars Office
Military service records are stored by the Defense Ministry, especially those collected after 1923
Wills and testaments filed after 1923 can be accessed from the Probate Service Office
Divorce records for all divisions that happen after 1858 are accessible from the Family Division Principal Registry
It is advisable to check out other local records offices for information before you decide to go to the archives. Some of the records that you might search for in local archives relate to
Schools, houses and hospitals
Local employers and businesses
Searching for a record in The National Archives is no mean task. To make your work faster and effective, you can check out the research guides on the archives to help you locate the sources you are looking for. You may also need to check out the tutorials on how to locate and use the old documents.
If you want to access records from The National Archives catalogues or any other of the 2,500 archives across the UK, you may need Discovery. This is a tool that makes your search of most of UK’s catalogues quick and painless. However, even with Discovery, it is important to start your search at the local archives.
How to Find the Information You Need
There is a lot you can get from the archives. You can get pretty much any government record, plan an effective research visit, view exhibitions online, visit the Museum, or even attend any event. You can also apply for a grant or make a donation, or volunteer at the archives.
For any queries, concerns or clarification, you can call The National Archive Telephone 0844 850 0039. Keep in mind that the 0844 numbers attract extra charges, and you may have to part with up to 7p for every minute. However, you call will worth your while.