N for National Archives

17 April 2016

You would think that N would be an easy letter in the A-Z blog. There are definitely more challenging letters ahead and there are loads of words which start with N…. but not that many genealogical or historical ones it would seem! N for names? N for nomenclature? Neither were particularly exciting prospects for today. So, we settled on National Archives.

The National Archives (TNA) are “the official archive and publisher for the UK government and guardians of over 1,000 years of iconic national documents”. The Public Record Office, as it was originally known, was established following an Act of Parliament in 1838 with a remit to “keep safely the Public Records”. Henry, Lord Langdale, was given this task and became the Master of the Rolls and the First Statutory Keeper of the Public Records. Born in 1783, Henry was driven by the idea of having one central location for State papers which, at that time, were stored in various locations such as the Tower of London and the Chapter House at Westminster Abbey. A building was constructed specifically for the purpose in Chancery Lane just off Fleet Street in Central London and Langdale was Keeper of the Rolls until his death in April 1851.

In a merger between the Public Record Office (PRO) and the Historic Manuscripts Commission (HMC), TNA was formed in 2003. Between 2003 and 2006, Her Majesty’s Stationery Office and the Office of Public Sector Information joined TNA.

Records held at TNA are central government records such as Home Office, Foreign Office and Central Criminal Court. Although most are administrative documents, many contain information relating to people. Naturalisation certificates are particularly useful in our research as they give birth and place of date, names of known relatives and country of origin. The Discovery Catalogue now “holds more than 32 million descriptions of records held by The National Archives and more than 2,500 archives across the country. Over 9 million records are available for download”… very useful for those who are researching from a distance, whether in the UK or abroad. A fee is charged to download and copies of other documents can be ordered too!

If you have any research interests in England and Wales, and you haven’t used the Discovery Catalogue, I would urge you to do so. Who knows what excitement could be waiting for you!

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