The National Archives
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Catalogued documents held in our repositories

The National Archives' collection of over 11 million historical government and public records is one of the largest in the world.  From Domesday Book to modern government papers and digital files, our collection includes paper and parchment, electronic records and websites, photographs, posters, maps, drawings and paintings.

As a general rule, government records that have been selected for permanent preservation are sent to The National Archives when they are 30 years old, but many are transferred to us earlier under the Freedom of Information Act

Finding what you're looking for

If you need help to carry out your research and use the archives, please see our section on records. We have research guides to help you find the sources you need, as well tutorials to help you read old documents.

The National Archives does not hold or issue copies of birth, marriage or death certificates.  Visit the Directgov website to order these certificates.

Records held at The National Archives

Visit our Catalogue to search descriptions of the records that we hold and to find out how you can view them. You can download many of our digitised public records through DocumentsOnline.

Types of records we hold include:

Government, diplomacy and the armed forces

  • Records of British government administration at home and overseas, including documents from all the core government departments
  • Records of the British armed forces and their campaigns covering many hundreds of years
  • Earlier handwritten records dating back as far as the time of William the Conqueror


  • A vast array of court records - mostly from central, rather than local courts - extending from the medieval period to the late 20th century, covering subjects as diverse as treason, transportation and courts martial through to domestic disputes over wills.


Records held elsewhere

Many records are not held by The National Archives but are kept by local archives and other organisations. Before visiting us, please check whether the records you are looking for are kept elsewhere, by using our online search tool.

Records held elsewhere include:

  • birth, marriage and death certificates - these are available to order through the Directgov website
  • military service records from the 1920s onwards, including those covering the Second World War - these are kept by the Ministry of Defence.   Visit the Veterans UK website for details. 
  • parish registers
  • wills dated after 1858
  • personal papers and diaries
  • day-to-day records of hospitals, schools, companies and businesses